Home care services can be helpful because they allow older Australians to continue to live independently in their own home, with all of the quality-of-life benefits that this brings.
The trouble is, what most older Australians know about home care is based on stories about the long wait-list for a home care package via My Aged Care.
This means that you may not realise that every Aussie has the right to self-manage their home care, whether they have a government-subsidised home care package or are privately funding home care services.
Nor might you be aware that you’re not obliged to use the first well-known provider a GP or hospital recommends (which is what often happens when care has to be found in a hurry after, say, an older person has a fall), but have the power to choose specific services from specific service providers or care and support workers. This can often be at a lower cost than is possible if all services are provided by a single, traditional home care service provider.
While self-managed care is different for every person, it basically means that the care consumer (you or your parents) control how money (from your home care package) is spent. You control which services you access, where you access those from and how much you pay.
COTA, the peak body representing the interests of older Australians, says self-management rightly acknowledges that by your later years, you know your own needs and have the skills and experience to make smart decisions about how to meet those needs. To encourage more Aussies to try self-management, COTA offers a free self-managed care guide and other resources on how to make it work for you.
It’s important to note that not all home care providers offer the option to self-manage care. Instead, some prefer to do the management of finding suitable carers, scheduling visits and managing funding, for which the care consumer pays an administration fee.
One of the biggest benefits of self-managed care is that you get to choose who supports you. This means you can find people who best meet your needs, choose when they come to your home and how often. It also gives you the chance to find workers who you’re most compatible with.
Once you find them, you also get to keep working with them. One of the most common complaints Starts at 60 readers make about traditional home care providers is that there’s no guarantee they’ll see the same support worker from one day to the next – making each visit a newly intrusive experience.
The other important benefit of self-management is that it largely removes that cost of administration – in effect, doing your own service selection rather than leaving it to a care provider – makes self-managed care considerably cheaper than going through a traditional provider.
However, you still need to have a home care provider ‘host’ your home care package funding for you – My Aged Care won’t pay it straight into your bank account. But some providers are happy for you to decide how that funding is spent, which we explain as you read on.
Cheaper package management fees and services mean your funding stretches further, so you can get more hours of support for the same money.
Peter Scutt is the CEO of Mable, an online platform that connects people seeking care with independent care and support workers of all kinds, from people providing domestic assistance (such as cleaning, cooking and help around the home) to qualified personal carers and nurses.
Scutt founded Mable in 2014 after struggling to find the right home care for his own parents, and believes that giving older Aussies an easy way to control their own care is vital for long-term wellbeing.
“For many people, the term ‘aged care’ just doesn’t resonate,” he explains. “It’s associated with handing over control to a large care provider who’ll roster their care workers. In my father’s case, he rebelled against having these ‘strangers’ coming into his home to look after mum.”
“When we have the flexibility to choose our own support team, something great happens,” he adds. “We start to make more genuine connections and build more rewarding relationships in our communities.”
Being in control suits retired businessman Douglas Walker, 80, just fine. He likes being able to put his time-management skills to use by choosing which support worker comes to his home and when, based on what their strengths are.
“I can confidently say my life – or at least my older life – has never been better, and that’s all since I began with Mable,” he says.
Plus, Mable solved the problem Doug had with his previous care provider – that a different worker visited him on each occasion. “By the time I explained where the vacuum is kept and how it works, it would’ve been quicker to just do it myself,” he recalls.
The range of support workers available on Mable’s online platform is so wide, Doug has been able to use his home care funding to get some surprising services: a fishing trip to Bribie Island and lifts to his grandson’s football games are among them. He’s even recently started writing a family history book with the help of a support worker who’s also a graphic designer that he invited to the platform.
Since changing from his traditional provider to Mable, Doug’s been able to more than double his hours of care, because Mable charges clients just 5 percent on top of the agreed rate with an independent worker. This means Mable customers could pay far less for services on Mable with average rates across the platform for social support and domestic assistance between $35 and $40 an hour.
That’s a huge saving compared to the $55 per hour that’s closer to the norm at traditional care providers.
If you are still on the waitlist for a home care package, Mable could be an affordable option for care in the meantime. Best of all, once you are approved for your home care package, you will be able to keep working with the same support workers.
And the more affordable cost to the person receiving care or support doesn’t come at the expense of the support workers either; workers who provide care through Mable have the potential to earn more than the traditional support worker – again, because there’s no big ‘middleman’ taking a hefty admin fee.
Of the agreed rate between the client and their independent worker, the worker will receive the hourly rate less 10 per cent.
Reading COTA’s guide on self-managed care is a good start, and if you’d like to know more about how Mable works, you can read more here.
After getting to grips with the concept, you simply need to find an approved home care provider willing to host self-managed home care packages. Let’s Get Care is a provider that will host your package at a low cost and allow you to self-manage the services you use.
Once you’ve found a host for your package, you’re free to start contacting service providers or use Mable, which can connect you to more than 5,600 individual support workers (you can message them directly on the Mable platform or post a ‘job ad’ that describes the services you’re looking for).
Then you and your individual service providers or support workers can agree on the hours of care you want and what the hourly rate will be for those services.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial or legal situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product or legal advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial or legal decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.
Mable is an online platform where you choose and schedule the care or support that's right for you. Start searching the profiles of over 5,600 workers.