The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety met in Adelaide this week, putting forward propositions and suggestions to industry professionals in a bid to redesign the aged care system.
While last year’s royal commission was centred around the issues in the industry, this year’s hearings were focused on solutions and models to improve the sector. Among the topics discussed included the need for face-to-face support when accessing aged care services and improved access to respite.
Here’s what the proposed changes could mean for older Australians accessing the aged care system.
Given many older Australians struggle with the telephone and internet-based service, the royal commission has called for more in-person assistance for older people and their families who are trying to access aged care. They have proposed that the entry point into the aged care system be shifted to primarily face-to-face support, backed by a website and call centre.
The federal health department echoed this sentiment, agreeing that there needs to be more support for older people trying to navigate the often-tricky system.
“There’s no doubt that aged care as a whole needs to have a much greater face-to-face presence, and that has to take a number of forms,” Nicholas Hartland, a senior departmental official, told the royal commission.
Mike Woods, a professor at The University of Technology Sydney, agreed that in-person support was vital. “The face-to-face navigation role is absolutely fundamental and will solve a lot of problems where people just get lost in the system and therefore drop out (because) it’s too hard,” he said.
The commission also wants older Aussies to and their carers to have greater access to respite to give them a short-term break from their usual care arrangements. Peter Gray, the senior counsel assisting the commission, said it represented a “very good investment” of public funds.
“It’s not only humane but it makes good economic sense if the progression of people to more intensive and costly forms of care can be prevented and deterred,” he told the commission.
“This element in the overall design is the centrepiece in reorienting the programs in the aged care system in the direction of maintaining and restoring function wherever possible and pursuing wellness and quality of life for people in care.”
Further, Gray added that sustaining the caring relationship provided by informal carers, such as family members, made good fiscal sense.
“We know that informal caring relationships are hugely valuable to the economy and in effect represent a saving in what might otherwise have to be funded by public revenue,” he said.
“Informal care is necessary to sustain the overall system as well as being, one must presume, very often in the best interests of the person receiving the care.”
The commission also heard that access to low-level services or extra help around the home needs to be more accessible so that people don’t delay accessing these services.
“We need to get the early adoption of these services, because if we don’t, then we know that potentially people will decline and be in even greater need,” Dr David Panter, CEO at ECH and Leading Aged Services Australia board member, told the commission.
The panel will meet again on February 21 in Adelaide to discuss the future of the aged care workforce.
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