Informal care ‘a ticking time bomb’

Australia’s health and aged care systems must acknowledge the country’s 2.6 million unpaid carers and work with them as ‘partners in care’, a group of healthcare organisations argue in a new paper.


The home care white paper launched today
The home care white paper was launched today

Australia’s health and aged care systems must acknowledge the country’s 2.6 million unpaid carers and work with them as ‘partners in care’, a group of healthcare organisations argue in a new paper.

They called for increased collaboration and coordination in the delivery of care, and improved education for carers providing home healthcare.

The Defusing a Ticking Time Bomb white paper calls on government to deliver a wide range of responses to better support carers, who collectively provide $40 billion worth of unpaid care at home to frail aged, chronically ill and those with a disability.

It said the current system of voluntary home care, which it described as “antiquated” and at a “tipping point”, was unable to cope with the projected 250 per cent increase in demand over the next 40 years.

The white paper was developed by Carers Australia, Palliative Care Australia, Continence Foundation Australia, Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the Australian Wound Management Association and Wendy’s Home Services.

The group noted that carers experienced higher rates of mental health problems, particularly anxiety and depression, and chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, arthritis and cardiovascular disease.

“Many carers bear a largely hidden burden that is detrimental to their own wellbeing and can lead to burnout,” the paper said. “Providing care can have a negative impact on the health of carers and this impact increases with the number of hour spent caring.”

While the ageing population had focussed attention on the need for improved aged care services, the delivery of home care was not limited to older people. “Increasing numbers of people with chronic illness and disabilities of all ages require consistent and high quality care in the home,” the paper said.


The paper put forward a range of recommendations related to carers, care recipients, professional carers, health professionals and government.

Among them were:

  • Improve knowledge of and access to care services and financial assistance
  • Increase support services for carers
  • Introduce case coordinators to foster collaboration and oversee multidisciplinary care
  • Shift the acute setting focus from early discharge to thorough discharge planning
  • Increase the capacity of carers to be members of the workforce
  • Increase government funding for services that will deliver benefits for carers and care recipients.

Big picture view 

Professor Patsy Yates
Professor Patsy Yates

President of Palliative Care Australia, Professor Patsy Yates, said the purpose of the paper was to profile the significance of the issue and provide guidance around the sort of reforms that were needed.

“It’s highlighting the issue in the context of demographic changes in Australia,” she told Australian Ageing Agenda. “It’s a population issue, and its big picture in the sense that we’re saying this isn’t just an issue for one area, it’s an issue for healthcare, for social services, for communities, volunteers and families – it is right across the spectrum.”

Accordingly, the recommendations put forward signaled the multiple approaches that were required, she said.

When asked how hopeful she was that Federal Government would respond, given it had foreshadowed a tough forthcoming federal budget, Professor Yates said that all governments had acknowledged the demographic issues facing them.

“I think there is recognition; it’s the next step that needs to happen now, which is why we hope this paper will inform some specific actions the government can take.”

The white paper was launched at Parliament House in Canberra today. Its development was supported by Hartmann, a provider of healthcare products and services.

Read the white paper in full here: Home Care Ticking Time Bomb White Paper

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Fast facts:

  • There are an estimated 2.6 million carers, providing 1.32 bullion hours of care annually
  • The annual replacement cost of this care is estimated at $40.9 billion
  • The number of older Australian requiring home care in 2050 will be 3.5 million – enough to fill 10,000 large teaching hospitals
  • Carers face greater financial hardship; 50 per cent are on low incomes, with 62 per cent of primary carers in the two lowest income brackets

Source: Defusing a Ticking Time Bomb



Tags: association, carers, carers-australia, continence foundation of australia, hartmann, palliative-care-australia, patsy-yates, pharmacy-guild-of-australia, the australian wound management, wendy's home services,

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