More than half of older people who have received a home care package are struggling to work out what to do with it because the system is “bewildering and broken”, according to a consumer think-tank.
Simply pouring more home care packages into the system without making it easier to access the services they provide won’t do anything to fix the problem, a report from the Consumer Policy Research Centre says.
The CPRC report, Choosing Care: the difficulties in navigating the Home Care Package market, found complexity and opacity are preventing many older people from seeking support.
It found 60 per cent of home care recipients needed help identifying and choosing a provider, which created a “hidden burden” that often fell to healthcare professionals or family and friends.
Author Ben Martin Hobbs, a senior research and policy officer with the CPRC, says the findings show it’s not enough to just fund more packages.
“The system has to be made easier, fairer and more transparent,” he told Community Care Review.
“Fees, prices and services need to be standardised and simplified so that people can compare information about what services they’re getting, what they’ll cost and how they’ll get it.
“We think there also needs to be easier systems and better support for health care professionals and carers to connect older Australians with appropriate providers.”
The system was often leaving older Australians unable to access the support that could help them live happier, healthier lives at home, CPRC CEO Lauren Solomon said.
“What we have here is a system that has not been built for the people trying to access it. That burden is simply being shifted to family, friends and healthcare professionals as people try to navigate this bewildering and broken system.”
The report draws on research from the University of SA which surveyed 502 HCP recipients across Australia last June and July.
It found almost half of those surveyed relied on the help of a healthcare professional and more than one in three had to seek assistance from family or friends.
“For those older people without adequate family or healthcare support, it’s unclear whether they would even be aware of the available home care package support, let alone be able to access the system,” Ms Solomon said.
The report also found a third of home care recipients didn’t even know what level of funding they received or could easily understand their fees and charges.
What this tells us is that older Australians are sick of an aged care lottery where they are forced to choose a provider without the right information – COTA CEO Ian Yates.
Almost 40 per cent said they didn’t have a care plan outlining their needs and services, or who would deliver them and when .
Almost 90 per cent of respondents wanted clearer information, and 82 per cent supported simplifying fees and charges.
Eighty per cent said they wanted more transparency about the quality of providers.
Home care recipients not using My Aged Care
Although the internet is the primary channel for finding information about home care, 44 per cent of the older people surveyed said they were not confident using it and less than 7 per cent (6.8 per cent) said they had accessed the My Health Care portal.
Home care recipients “indicated a clear preference to talk to trusted individuals when making choices about their in-home care”, the survey found.
Mr Martin Hobbs said it was strange to use an online mechanism to deliver the home care marketplace to a demographic that was lacking in digital literacy.
“It’s not the channel where (older) people access information and it’s not the channel they prefer to use,” he said.
But while they indicated a clear preference for more phone-based information, half of those surveyed thought it was “very important” to improve the My Aged Care Contact Centre, which Mr Martin Hobbs said could reflect the role of other people in using the platform.
He said about 75 per cent of respondents wanted an independent organisation that could provide them with information about their package.
“Clearly there’s a real need for a support system while accessing and navigating the system,” he said.
The older person’s advocacy group COTA Australia said the study showed that older Australians were demanding simple, useful, comparable information to empower them make decisions about their care.
“What this tells us is that older Australians are sick of an aged care lottery where they are forced to choose a provider without the right information and chance determines the quality of the service they receive,” CEO Ian Yates said.
The report recommends:
- Standardised fees, prices and service information
- More support for healthcare professionals and carers in connection older people
- More transparency about quality
- Capacity building and training of employees in the My Aged Care Contact
- More options for comparison and choice on My Aged Care
- An independent body to provide advice about individual packages