A report has recommended reducing the number of respite days that aged care facilities are allowed to offer amid concerns that some people are using respite as a “try before you buy” system and crowding out those in genuine need.
The Aged Care Financing Authority report on respite care says about 100,000 people a year take advantage of respite services, including 40,000 who access CHSP home or centre-based services and 60,000 who enter residential respite.
The government funds a combined $560 million a year for both avenues, including $248 million in CHSP grants and $312 million in subsidies for residential providers.
‘Try before you buy’ a concern
ACFA said it had identified a “noticeable uptake” in the use of residential respite for reasons other than giving carers and care recipients a break, in accordance with its definition under the Aged Care Act.
“This includes the use of respite as a ‘try before you buy’ model before a person enters permanent residential care,” ACFA said.
The agency says this is an appropriate market response to other service demands, like the need for potential long-term residents to try out a permanent spot, but it “needs to be balanced against ensuring that the availability of short-term respite to support those wishing to remain living at home for as long as possible and their carers is not compromised.”
The October 31 report also says the current time frame of 63 respite days a year that aged care facilities can offer is imposing administrative burdens on providers, consumers and the government.
“ACFA recommends keeping a cap on respite care, but suggests that consideration be given to whether it be less than 63 days and to introducing some form of means testing after a specified period of respite use,” the report recommends.
“The latter would address concerns that other uses of respite care may crowd out respite for supporting people wishing to live at home for as long as possible (and their carers).”
It also recommends there should be an expectation that all providers be prepared to provide respite and that the purchasing of respite care should remain an appropriate use of home care packages.
Need for improvement in community based care
ACFA says several issues were identified regarding access to community-based respite care under the CHSP and the HCP programs.
The most common issues were:
- Insufficient supply of community-based respite care
- Disparity in costs and access between CHSP and home care packages
- Difficulty accessing community-based respite for home care package consumers
- Lack of suitable care for people with dementia and other special needs groups.
ACFA says respite can provide a necessary break for carers, which supports them in their role and can consequently keep older people out of residential care, and it should be recognised as a vital component of aged care services.
ACFA said had it received 71 submissions as part of the review into respite services which identified a range of issues and areas for improvement around access, funding, fees, administrative processes and availability.
“Many of these issues would be best addressed as part of broader consideration of reforms in other parts of the aged care system,” the report says.
“This appropriately reflects that respite care is an important and integral part of the aged care system and should move in line and be consistent with the direction of broader reform.”
You can read the full report here.