The long wait for home care packages is forcing some older people to enter residential care prematurely because of carer burn-out and lack of reablement support, the aged care royal commission has heard.
CEO of the Older Person’s Advocacy Network (OPAN) Craig Gear made the comments while giving evidence to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in Adelaide on Tuesday.
“Our services are hearing cases of that,” he said when questioned by Commissioner Lynelle Briggs.
“It might be about carer burden, and caring for someone for that length of time without the right level of support.
“It may also be that the right level of reablement focus is not there … and that means that the level of function of that person deteriorates quicker than it needs to, and residential care becomes the next option.”
Greater investment in and earlier access to home care would help prevent this occurring, Mr Gear told the commission.
Concerns about home care, access
Mr Gear said OPAN received between 230 and 240 calls a week relating to home care, including waiting times, fees and charges, and choice of care.
“What they’re telling us is the wait times are just too long and the level of support that they are getting is not meeting their needs … supply is not meeting demand in Australia at the moment,” he said.
He said the current waiting time of 18 to 20 months was not acceptable and OPAN wanted to see this reduced to three months.
Mr Gear also said MyAgedCare had failed to resolve access issues, especially for vulnerable and marginalised groups such as those in remote indigenous communities or with mental health issues.
He said whiled the portal had helped by bringing information into one area, it only worked for people with IT infrastructure or who could use the telephone system, or wait on the phone.
Another difficulty was around the nature of the correspondence that was being sent to users about home care.
“Often when someone is allocated a package or is getting an update it’s sent out in a letter. Sometimes those letters don’t arrive, or the telephone calls that might accompany them don’t get answered,” he said.
“Current practice is when a person hasn’t answered three times it is considered that they don’t want their package, and that typically is not the case.”
A ‘running sore’
During Monday’s evidence, National Seniors CEO Professor John McCallum described the home care waiting list as a “running sore” and “a really, profoundly critical failure”.
“We know that home care … is preventative for death and preventative for hospital admission. We haven’t really dealt with that and really dealt with the fact that people then have to go into residential care, into hospitals, which are much more expensive.
“It’s economically irrational, but we haven’t dealt with it. We haven’t dealt with it, because it is hard … it’s the most difficult immediate issue we have to confront.”
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