Demand for home care support amid the coronavirus has increased, experts have claimed, as Aussies choose to avoid aged care facilities for fear their loved ones will contract Covid-19.
Over the past couple of months, the aged care industry has been forced to implement tight restrictions to limit exposure of Covid-19 to residents, such as set visitation rules and increased health and safety measures. These restrictions have since been relaxed slightly as the curve continues to flatten and a new industry code has been released with a nationally consistent approach to the pandemic.
However, according to Nick McDonald, chief executive officer at Prestige Inhome Care, the strict measures and anxiety around aged care initially led to a spike in requests for home care, as families removed loved ones from facilities.
While when a person normally enters care they don’t return home, McDonald said the pandemic has altered things and people are more curious about the ins and outs of home care and how their loved one can be supported in that way.
“Early on there was a big spike in interest, with people asking questions such as, ‘can we bring our loved one home and how much does is cost?’ because of the concern of loved ones being trapped in residential care facilities,” he said.
Thea McCroary, general manager of sales and marketing at Prestige Inhome Care, said there was a big change in the type of clients, with most inquiring about short term care and services to keep loved ones comfortable and supported at home, rather than those with medical concerns.
“People wanted to know about how to get shopping or medication delivered, while others wanted to use their home care package to access computers and iPads to stay connected to family,” she said. “This was incredibly important as many of our clients live on their own.”
In a bid to assist this increased demand, the Morrison government provided a $59.3 million additional funding package during Covid-19 to ensure more prepared meals, food staples and essential daily items are delivered to those who need them most, with support from Meals on Wheels and supermarkets.
This included $50M to fund 3.4 million meals for 41,000 people for six weeks – the equivalent of two meals a day – and $9.3M for the purchase of 36,000 emergency food supply boxes. Minister for Health Greg Hunt said the meal delivery service was another important step in protecting senior Australians during the Covid-19 outbreak.
“The wellbeing of older Australians remains a priority,” he said. “We’re supporting them so they can remain safely in their own homes.”
However, since then there has been a slight drop in the calls for home care, and McDonald said this is mainly because more families are taking on carer roles themselves or assisting with carer duties such as shopping for groceries. With normal job responsibilities put on hold, he said people have had more time to support their elderly loves ones.
But, according to McDonald, this is just a temporary measure, and he expects the need for home care will soon rise again following the government’s advice to make use of the services amid the pandemic.
“We’ve seen a bit of a rollercoaster,” he said. “I think we’re coming to the third phase – the new normal – and people are realising cancelling services will only put loved ones at greater harm,” he said. “Locking someone in their home without outside support from carers isn’t the best solution. [You should] work with someone who knows what they’re doing to minimise the risk of contracting Covid-19.”
He added: “We still don’t know what’s going to happen; it’s been great to flatten the curve but will Australia see more cases once restrictions are eased? Probably. Once people start moving again, we’re likely to see pockets of infection and people need to be prepared for that.”
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services advice.