Preparing home care providers for 2043

Providers must start getting ready for the future of home care now, writes Lin Hatfield Dodds.

Providers must start getting ready for the future of home care now, writes Lin Hatfield Dodds.

As home care providers, we are on the edge of a huge demographic change in our client groups.

Twenty years from now, 18.4 per cent of Australians will be over the age of 65, compared to 16 per cent in 2020. This is a significant number of new people who will be eligible for services in a home setting. In 2043, it is estimated there will be 1.1 million Australians aged between 80 and 84 –  a doubling of that population group from the 2023 numbers.

To say this is a significant number of new people who will be eligible for aged care services doesn’t begin to capture the enormity of what we as a sector need to get ready to deliver.

Older people living good lives, their way, is of course what we all want. Funding that focuses on support in the home enables people to stay better connected to their families and communities, which is so important to wellbeing. But delivering the right supports into the future, as needs and expectations evolve, presents a huge challenge for providers.

We need to start thinking now about the system changes and innovations to be put in place for our future clients. And we also need to start listening now to what older people are telling us about how they want to live.

Lin Hatfield Dodds

Capacity is the first. Will providers have the ability and resources to scale-up their service provision? And secondly, providers will need to be ready to cater to people who are used to being active consumers – people who expect systems and services to be highly consumer-centric, responsive, personalised and high quality.

Baby boomers are stereotyped as demanding, self-assured, independent and competitive. In an ageing population, they will have political clout because of their numbers, and from a service perspective they will be very different to the people in the mix of age groups we provide services to today.

Traditionally, older people’s children play an important role in providing informal care. But with smaller families increasingly the norm, and more people working or not living nearby to their parents, we can expect to see a reduced availability of informal support. This will impose additional and substantial expectations on aged care providers.

“And we also need to start listening now to what older people are telling us about how they want to live.”

Service providers will need to be more adept at service provision and offer a wider and more diverse set of services and supports. There will need to be attention to the workforce’s ability to provide culturally competent support to culturally and linguistically diverse and LGBTIQA+ communities. Providers must prepare now for this tectonic transformation in expectation and soaring demand for services.

As providers, we have huge steps to take to ensure we can offer quality services 20 years from today. We know right now that our aged care workforce is at a choke point, the ramifications of which are far-reaching. It’s a shared problem which requires providers and governments to collaborate to futureproof and improve the quality of aged care support.

Preparation for these changing times is three-fold:

  1. We need a workforce that is paid decently and knows it is valued – our people are essential to providing quality services. Employers need to understand and reinforce their employee value position. Employees are values driven, but they also need to provide for themselves and their families. Employers, as a collective and individually, need to offer attractive workplaces and be able to renumerate workers fairly, so that they can recruit and retain staff.
  2. Harnessing technology to help us to improve our services is a must. It will help improve back-office functions so there are more resources for frontline services. It can be a substitute for some – but not all – of our service provision. Making it truly easier for people and their families to work out what assistance is available to them via digital platforms is also key. Baby boomers are tech savvy, and they will expect systems to be customer centric and easy to navigate. At the same time, there will be challenges related to locations and costs, so digital inclusion and targeted education will be essential to ensure no-one is left behind. 
  3. We are operating in a complex environment – requiring increased professionalism, flexibility, responsiveness and sophistication from our leaders. We need effective and inspiring leadership at all levels of our organisations. Non-government organisations recognise the need for improved leadership capability but are often not able to address this need within their operational constraints and current funding arrangements. We need the assistance of governments – commonwealth, state and territory – to do this.

Getting prepared to provide quality services in 2043 requires us to design future service systems collaboratively and proactively for older Australians. There are forward-looking federal government initiatives underway aiming to design systems for the future, such as work on the National Strategy for the Care and Support Economy and aged care reforms.

All parts of the aged care system will need to play an active and deliberate role in change, to prepare for the challenges ahead so that every Australian can age confidently, knowing that they will be able to exercise choice and control if and as they require quality support to live their best lives.

Lin Hatfield Dodds is chief executive officer of The Benevolent Society

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1 thought on “Preparing home care providers for 2043

  1. Lin an insightful, informative and strategically oriented article, well done.

    An absolute must read for all Directors, CEOs and Executives / Managers of not only in home care services but those of residential care, allied health care, primary health care and acute care; as they are all part of what should be a fully integrated Australian Health Care System.

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