In the wake of the Royal Commission into Aged Care’s interim report, the government has announced it will fund an additional 10,000 Home Care Packages (HCPs).
While any additional funding is a welcome announcement, this one unfortunately looks like a knee-jerk publicity stunt in light of the report’s release.
If you’re currently looking for home care services for a loved one, it’s important to understand if this extra funding is likely to affect you and if not, how you can still find the home care you need.
There are currently 120,000 Australians on the waiting list for a HCP. If you do the math, additional funding for an extra 10,000 people is only scratching the surface.
Additionally, it’s likely that this funding will be prioritised for those waiting for a Level 3 or Level 4 package and have been waiting for two years or more. Home care is divided into four levels, with a Level 1 or 2 package indicating care needs are low to moderate. Whereas a Level 3 or 4 indicates care needs are more acute or complex.
Unless you fall into the Level 3 or 4 category and have been on the waiting list for about two years, you’re unlikely to be the recipient of this extra funding and even then, there’s no guarantee you will be a recipient.
So, are these extra packages going to make a difference? No. Would it make a difference if the government announced it would fund an extra 120,000 packages to get everyone off the waiting list? Not necessarily.
I have a client who is currently looking for home care for her elderly mother.
Her mother has been allocated a Level 2 home care package within Queensland. However, my client’s mother needs an Italian-speaking carer. This is a common problem among many second and third-generation Australians.
Like many migrant families during the 50s and 60s we have elderly Australians who never fully learnt English. As these migrants enter their elderly years and experience cognitive decline, it’s common for them to revert more to their native tongue and for their adult children to act as translators.
This means that for my client’s mother, she cannot understand a home carer’s instructions or give instructions without her daughter there to translate. Since my client works full-time and has her own family to support, it’s not practical for her to be at home with the carer and act as an interpreter.
The entire system needs to be looked at. How can we attract carers who have the language skills in specific areas that migrant’s need? How can we attract people to the profession so we can have the workforce we need to provide these HCPs to begin with?
If you have a parent who is one of the 120,000 people on the HCP waiting list, the new announcement may not be as good as you hoped, but all is not lost.
There’s a lot you can do in the meantime to help access home care.
Make sure you understand the difference between ‘approved’ and ‘allocated’ home care
If you’ve received a letter saying you’ve been approved for a HCP, this essentially means you’re on the waiting list. If you get a letter after that that says you have been allocated, you have an actual package.
See if you can get a lower level package
The waiting lists are the longest for Level 3 and Level 4 packages. See if you can apply for a Level 2 or Level 1, which still provides basic care and may not take as long to access.
Consider private home care services
Look at engaging a private home care provider. Check to see what equity you may be able to access to pay for the service, such as superannuation or a pension loan scheme.
Consider what Mum or Dad really wants and needs
We tend to become fixated on keeping the elderly at home, sometimes to their own detriment.
Home care is not a 24/7 home nurse service. Even a Level 4 package will provide no more than 20 hours a week of care. Once your parent needs 24/7 nursing care, home care is no longer suitable and it may even be dangerous to their health to let them stay at home.
They may also be experiencing social isolation, so a more communal style of living such as a residential aged care home may make them happier.
When we’re looking at aged care for those we love, it’s important to take a holistic viewpoint and consider every option as a possibility so this time of life is about what they need and want.