Allied health peak bodies have welcomed the Federal Government’s new investment in allied health services for aged care residents as part of its response to the royal commission’s special report on COVID-19 in aged care.
The government announced an additional $132 million last week to improve its COVID response in aged care including $63 million to better support the mental and physical health of aged care residents.
The package includes:
- $35.5 million for individual Medicare-subsidised psychological services under the Better Access program until 30 June 2022
- $12.1 million to double individual allied health sessions under the Medicare chronic disease management plans to 10
- $15.7 million for group allied health services for aged care residents affected by COVID-19 outbreaks.
The peak bodies, Allied Health Professions Australia, Exercise Sports Science Australia and Australian Physiotherapy Association said the measures were needed to address gaps in access to services to support residents’ physical, mental and cognitive health and combat the impacts of COVID-19.
APA director and gerontological physiotherapist Rik Dawson said the APA has long been calling for an increase in the number of physiotherapy sessions available to older people on chronic disease management plans.
“Five sessions to meet all the allied health needs of a chronically ill or physically deconditioned person has never been enough to provide comprehensive care,” Mr Dawson said.
The APA is calling for these measures to be ongoing.
“This is a great start, but it must be made permanent if we’re really serious about improving the health and wellbeing of older Australians.” Mr Dawson said.
Allied Health Professions Australia CEO Claire Hewat said it was crucial to address the impact of lockdowns on individual residents as soon as possible.
“We know that during COVID-19 lockdowns, many older people living in aged care facilities have experienced a decline in cognitive function, physical capacity and communication skills, as well as an increase in depression and anxiety,” Ms Hewat said.
“Getting older people moving again and supporting their mental wellbeing will make a big difference to their ongoing physical and mental health.”
Exercise Sports Science Australia CEO Anita Hobson-Powell said physical inactivity was a key contributor to most chronic diseases.
“These new items and the increased number of exercise physiology sessions are something we have been working hard to achieve to better support those older Australians with chronic conditions,” Ms Hobson-Powell said.
“Broadening access to age appropriate exercise therapy is critical to help older Australians improve their strength, balance and mobility to improve their quality of life and overall health, maintain their capacity and in some cases reverse their decline,” she said.