Australia has the potential to lead the world in embedding a reablement approach in aged care policy and practice.
That’s according to Ricki Smith, the CEO of Access Care Network Australia, who has just returned from a six-week study tour of New Zealand, London, Wales and Denmark to observe international reablement models.
Ms Smith’s research, undertaken as part of a Churchill Fellowship, is studying how Australia compares to other countries on four key factors – evidence, practice, policy and culture.
As part of Ms Smith’s Churchill Fellowship, she met with academics, think tanks, policymakers and service providers, as well participated in home visits to witness reablement in practice.
“Australia is best placed to lead the way internationally on reablement,” Ms Smith told Community Care Review.
Australia’s national aged care system and a single client record through My Aged Care are key strengths missing from overseas, she said.
Speaking ahead of her keynote address to the Active Ageing Conference 2017 this month, Ms Smith said introducing a reablement phase before referral for ongoing services is a goal Australia should be working towards.
She said in the UK, the government had introduced a financial incentive for clients to undertake a 6-week reablement phase after an acute episode to encourage consumer demand.
In Australia, current funding arrangements acted as a disincentive to providers to embrace a reablement approach, which needed to be addressed to support its broad adoption, said Ms Smith.
She said Australia has produced some of the best evidence in the field, which showed a reablement approach delivered benefits not only to individuals but to taxpayers by reducing or delaying the need for services.
Ms Smith’s interests in international models of reablement stemmed from Access Care Network Australia’s implementation of an active assessment model for Home and Community Care clients in WA, which incorporates reablement strategies.
Her organisation is also a My Aged Care Regional Assessment Service for the Commonwealth Home Support Program.
She said a reablement approach supported individuals through coaching to build skills and confidence to improve their capacity and reduce dependency.
She said her study tour also demonstrated the benefits of embedding a reablement approach in other parts of the health system, such as in post-acute care programs.
“We have further to go in changing our service delivery models, both after hospital and in aged care, to support older people to improve.”
Ms Smith is currently preparing a report for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and will share the findings of her study tour at the Active Ageing Conference in Melbourne on 30 August.
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