Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt has spoken to Community Care Review in his first comments directly addressing the reaction to home care data released last week, revealing that more than one in ten people approved for a package are estimated to be living with dementia.
The figures, released last Friday, showed the number of people waiting for their appropriate level of home care had increased to more than 108,000.
They showed that at March 31 there were 108,456 people in the national queue, including those on an interim package, a 3.7 per cent increase from 104,602 last December, and that people were continuing to wait 12 months or more for high level packages.
The data also revealed a record number of people in home care, with 77,918 in care at December, up 13.5 per cent from December 2016 and a five per cent increase from September 2017.
Bouquets and brickbats
While many welcomed the fact that more Australians are receiving care at home, concerns were expressed by both providers and consumer groups about the continuing shortage of appropriate level home care packages, as well the 12 month waiting list for those with higher needs.
Dementia Australia also called for information specific to the number of people with dementia who were waiting for care.
On Wednesday Mr Wyatt told Community Care Review that around 12 per cent of people currently approved for home care were living with dementia, based on Dementia Cognition Supplement figures.
He did not specify what proportion were still waiting for their package but said, “depending on assessment of individual needs, people living with dementia may be prioritised to expedite their home care”.
The minister repeated earlier comments that the government had committed $1.6 billion to increase home care packages from current levels of 87,500 to 151,000 by 2022, including 34,000 more high-level packages.
Mr Wyatt did not directly respond to calls by COTA for the government work towards a three month waiting time for home care packages, but said the maximum wait for a level one package was currently between one and three months and that the rollout of more high level packages from July would also reduce wait times.
“The increase in high-level packages aims to reduce wait times, allowing more people to receive support sooner and remain living at home for longer,” he said.
He also pointed out that people approved for a home care package have the option to access services through the CHSP while they wait.