Older Aussies dying while they wait for home care packages: Survey

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New data has revealed older Aussies are waiting far longer for home care than previously reported by the government. Source: Getty

Shocking new data has revealed older Aussies are dealing with exceptionally long delays for aged care with maximum wait times reported as much longer than the 12 months listed in the government’s own figures.

A survey of 23 home care package providers conducted by Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) has found people are waiting longer than what has been outlined by My Aged Care. The data shockingly shows some Australians on interim packages often pass away or enter hospital or residential care before receiving the package that they were assessed as needing.

According to LASA Chief Executive Officer Sean Rooney these wait times need to be reduced to no more than three months from the time of assessment to the time an older Aussie receives support in their home. He said the shorter wait times should be phased in and supplemented by prioritising the queue based on an individuals’ financial circumstances.

“This would see older Australians who have the option of using their own funds or home equity to cover the cost of their care needs, whilst those people with limited resources access care as a priority,” Rooney explained. 

The CEO also recommended all unspent home care package (HCP) funds returned to government be recycled into additional HCPs, along with clearer guidance for both providers and consumers on appropriate uses of these funds.

“We have suggested the government spend an additional $500 million per year to meet the needs of the growing numbers of older Australians on the home care national queue,” Rooney continued.

“The government needs to make this commitment, along with a number of initiatives outlined in our pre-Budget submission, a priority in next week’s budget if it is serious about supporting older Australians to age in their homes.”

The latest data follows the Morrison government’s rollout of an additional 10,000 home care packages earlier this year, as part of a plan to help older Australians remain in their homes for longer.

Although welcome news to some, others appeared undecided about whether the move by Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt was sufficient or if the new packages actually fell short of the number of elderly people in urgent need of home care.

Diedre Timms, CEO of Advocare, told Starts at 60 at the time, there were more than 100,000 senior Aussies on the list for these vital services, meaning the rollout would cater for less than 10 per cent of those in need.

“I welcome the government’s announcement of an additional 10,000 packages,” she said. “But we have a situation of in excess of 100,000 people on the wait list for services.

“These are elderly frail people who may well die before they get services or be forced from their homes to residential care simply due to lack of support. Most older people want to stay at home as long as they can. Our government must do more to support frail older people.”

Timms’ views were echoed by the Council on the Ageing (COTA) which pointed out that the additional packages amount to only one third of the urgent increase of 30,000 high level home care packages that COTA called for last September in its paper Keep fixing Australia’s aged care system … taking the next steps in tandem with the Royal Commission.

COTA Australia Chief Executive, Ian Yates, said: “This a good step, a welcome step, but one that will still leave too many older Australians that the government has itself assessed as in need of high level care at home, without that care.

“We really need to reduce the waiting list so that no one waits more than three months for care. The reality is that when someone needs high-level support at home they can’t afford to wait. The risk to them and the burden on family is unacceptable, as is forcing people into residential care prematurely.”

Do you, or a loved one, rely on home care? Do you think the government needs to do more to help senior Australians who apply for home care?

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