Older Australians have the option to receive government-subsidised care in their own home, which puts them a step ahead of seniors in many other countries. But the current waiting time to access this support can leave vulnerable people without much-needed care for months or even years.
COTA, the peak body for older Australians, says that 43 Australians die every day without receiving the home care package (HCP) they were promised by the government’s My Aged Care system. And although the waiting list for home care packages – as the funding packages for government-subsidised home care are officially known – dropped for the first time in the quarter to June 30, the number of people waiting for funding remains unacceptable, according to COTA and other experts.
As of the June quarter, 119,524 people were waiting for a HCP suitable for their needs to be provided, down 7 per cent on the previous quarter. Meanwhile, 125,117 people were receiving HCPs, an increase of more than 25,000 over the 12 months to June 20.
But COTA says that of that 119,524 people on the waiting list, 72,000 have no form of interim care at all from, for example, the Commonwealth Home Support Program, which is also subsidised by the government but offers a lower level of care than a HCP.
There are options for accessing home care without a HCP or access to the CHSP; these options require private funding but have the upside of little to no waiting time. Here’s how you can access them and the costs you may face.
There are many home care providers that will provide care either funded by a HCP, CHSP or your personal funds. To contract their services privately, you don’t need to go through the same My Aged Care channels to have your needs assessed, however.
Instead, you can contact the service providers directly to find out what kinds of care they offer, the costs and whether it’s available in your area.
Even if you don’t have a HCP, you can use My Aged Care’s listing of home care service providers to find local home care providers; this search system has the benefit of allowing you to be quite specific in what type of care you’re looking for, so should save you from wasting time calling providers that don’t offer what you need.
There are agencies that are expert in locating care, either privately or through a HCP, which you can engage to do the legwork for you and recommend the most suitable provider. MyCarePath is one, and you can read advice from MyCarePath’s founder Dana Sawyer, who started her agency a decade ago after helping her own mother through the aged care journey, on Starts at 60.
You could also try an online locator that links you up directly with providers of specific services. One example is Mable, a new platform that connects home care customers with independent workers ranging from nurses to specialist therapists, transport providers, cleaners and care workers.
This has the advantage of allowing you to access exactly the type of care you require without paying the administration fee that many home care providers will charge to organise sending their various workers to your home. It does mean, however, that you must juggle communications on timings and services direct with the workers themselves, so it helps if you don’t mind organising such things.
Choosing an organisation to care for you, your partner or your parent shouldn’t be a rushed decision, though, so make sure you contact multiple service providers to find the one that best suits your needs. If you’re waiting on access to the CHSP or your HCP to come through, you can usually transition from privately funded care to subsidised care with the same provider.
Private home care services will require payment from the person receiving care, but prices vary depending on which provider you choose and the services you require.
The government is working on improving the transparency of home care charges, and since July, all home care providers have been required to publish their pricing information on the My Aged Care website. You’ll find their charges listed when you use the listing of service providers that we mentioned earlier.
Home care providers are also obliged to provide you with a detailed schedule of the fees you will be charged for care, as well as any administration or other fees.
Some private publish detailed fee guides on their own sites too, such as Daughterly Care in Sydney, which makes clear that it charges $62 per hour for a nursing assistant/caregiver on weekdays from 6am-8pm, while more complex medical care from a registered nurse on weekdays 6am-8pm costs $95 per hour.
Others give more general guidance, such as Absolute Care and Health in Melbourne, says it charges $56 per hour on weekdays 6am-8pm.
Mable, meanwhile, says it is able to connect users with carers who will provide services starting at a cost of $30 per hour.
Speaking broadly, however, services provided by a nurse or health professional will be more expensive than those from a care worker, and those provided on a weekend or at night more expensive than those during the day.
The services offered through private home care arrangements are the same as those available under a HCP, ranging from general housekeeping and food preparation to more medical care such as medication management and wound dressing. Once you have decided on a care provider, the provider will work with you to develop a tailored plan that sets out the care you’ll receive, which can range from as little as 30 minutes a week to 24 hours per day.
For easy reference, however, the most common types of care services include housekeeping, shopping, meal preparation, personal care, home maintenance, nursing, respite care, disability support, rehabilitation, transport, allied health services such as podiatry and physiotherapy, and social support.