The peak body representing occupational therapists, Occupational Therapy Australia, has called for improved government incentives to boost the number of occupational therapists working in aged care.
OTA board member and representative on the National Aged Care Alliance Jan Evren said aged care was a significant growth area of practice but there were still significant barriers to their employment in the sector.
Ms Evren said the Commonwealth Government could improve access by funding more OT services through the current Home and Community Care (HACC) program, by providing more private practice incentives, increased Medicare subsidies and DVA payments for services.
To improve access for aged care residents, she said occupational therapy services should also be an essential component of the revised schedule for Specified Care and Services for residential aged care.
She said OTs play an important role in promoting a re-enablement model and assisting clients to maintain their independence, especially in the community and deserved greater attention from governments and aged care providers.
“There are a number of opportunities for OTs in aged care including being contracted to supply services in residential aged care facilities, providing services to clients accessing home care packages and in the future Commonwealth home support program.
“OTs will also continue to be employed in carrying out aged care assessments as part of the Aged Care Gateway,” she said.
She said greater information and education was needed for GPs and aged care providers about the role of OTs to help improve uptake in the community.
OTA currently has members representing the association on multiple government advisory groups including the Gateway Advisory Group, the Commonwealth Home Support Advisory Group and the Specified Care and Services Advisory Group.
However, she said predicted workforce shortages and a lack of information from the Commonwealth regarding the impact of the aged care reforms were immediate challenges for the profession.
To coincide with Occupational Therapy Week, held from 20-26 October, the OTA is highlighting the impact of OTs to maximise the independence, wellbeing and quality of life of individuals and will host a panel discussion on the implications of the National Disability Insurance Scheme on Wednesday, 23 October.
The November-December edition of Australian Ageing Agenda includes an in-depth report on the decline of allied health professionals in the aged care workforce.