An overwhelming majority of Australians aged 65 and over believe it is difficult to access nursing home accommodation and perceive aged care to be unaffordable, a recent survey has found.
The 2010 survey, jointly conducted by the Menzies Centre for Health Policy at the University of Sydney and The Nous Group, found that most Australians without experience of aged care held a negative view of the system.
However the results did a complete about face for those individuals who had either been in direct contact with, or knew someone who had direct contact with aged care services.
“Seventy six percent believed that it was fairly or very difficult to access nursing home accommodation for the aged,” the survey said.
“Broken down by age, 81 per cent of respondents 65 and over considered it to be fairly or very difficult, rising to 83 per cent for those in the 45 to 64 years age bracket, whereas just 51 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 24 shared this view.
“…Seventy three percent of people living in a capital city felt that it was fairly or very difficult to access nursing home accommodation and, for the most part, those not living in a capital city (77 per cent) shared this view.”
The survey included, for the first time, a series of questions designed to assess attitudes held by Australians in relation to the accessibility, affordability and satisfaction with aged care services.
“Among those who knew someone in care, when asked “How would you rate how easy it is for you or your dependent to choose and get access to services that meet your dependent’s individual needs?”, 43 per cent suggested that this was a satisfactory prospect.”
Deputy director of the Menzies Centre for Health Policy, James Gillespie, said that the survey’s results also acted to further cement currently held beliefs about people’s preference for community care over aged care.
“You’ve got to guess the impact of the survey from other things but, but one [inference drawn from the results] is that it is highly likely that the bond system is not really understood very well among generations.
“People think that providers are taking vast amounts of money out of someone’s savings, forcing them to sell their house and it’s a form of loss.”
Mr Gillespie said the survey results have timely implications for policy makers, given that the release of the Productivity Commission’s aged care inquiry report in late January.
“The survey does not necessarily [state] what is true about the system but rather what people think about the system, as that can sometimes shape policy,” said Mr Gillespie.
“It tells us a lot about how to shape the proposals that will come out of [the Commission’s report] …about what people need from the system and what some of the fears are that successful reform will need to resolve.”
Despite the desperate need to reform the aged care sector, Mr Gillespie said that governments are “terrified of taking decisive action because of a fear of [popular] backlashes”.
“This is a very touchy topic and it would be handled very carefully by governments and aged care services.”