Healthy ageing initiatives can reduce financial strains and other pressures on aged care and public health services in rural areas of Australia, a report has found.
Residential and home aged care provider Southern Cross Care Queensland is investing $31 million to increase its services in Chinchilla – a rural town 240km west of the Sunshine Coast.
The not-for-profit provider’s Chinchilla strategy will not only see the creation of 81 new aged care places, but also the development of a community-centred health and wellbeing hub.
Such a facility, says the SCCQ-commissioned report seen by Australian Ageing Agenda, could lead to savings of nearly $63,000 a year for every person who remains in home care.
“The augmentation the hub provides will allow a certain percentage of the population to stay at home or in supported accommodation rather than moving to residential care,” say the report’s authors.
“In absence of the proposed hub, people will either need to transfer to residential care or will miss out on appropriate services,” they add.
The 20-page report – from consultancy firm Evaluate, which specialises in aged care – warns that changing demographics in Australia’s rural and remote towns are creating a greater reliance on the health system as a substitute for aged care services, which are limited and already under stress.
According to the report’s authors, over the next decade, the number of residents in the Chinchilla catchment area aged 65-plus will increase by 22 per cent; the number of over-75s will rise by 35 per cent.
The report’s authors say the wellbeing hub will provide Chinchilla’s older residents with multidisciplinary approaches to healthy ageing.
“One of the principal benefits sought through healthy ageing, and the support that the wellbeing hub is intended to provide, is that people are able to age for longer in their own homes.”
Critically, add the authors, allowing people to receive care in their own homes is substantially cheaper than admitting them to residential care.
The $3-million wellbeing hub – jointly funded by SCCQ and the federal government – would ease healthcare demands, say the authors, and it could also function as an important triage centre, from where clients could be directed to care when they may otherwise had not sought advice from their general practitioner.
Staff pressures will also be alleviated, say the report’s authors, by freeing up workers to care for those who most need it. “With the workforce shortage in Chinchilla, this should be a priority.”
SCCQ chief executive officer Jason Eldering told AAA that, while the Chinchilla report underlined the challenges facing the delivery of quality aged care and home care in rural and remote areas of the country, it also highlighted the opportunities that strategic investment can create.
“The public benefits in this report cover the construction process and the stimulation of the local economy, savings to the health system, the creation of local jobs and freeing up family and other informal carers to participate in the economy.”
As for the private benefits, Mr Eldering told AAA they included: “an individual’s capacity to exercise choice and to obtain care in their preferred setting whether that be at home or in care.”
He added: “We look forward to bringing this community hub to Chinchilla and helping to create these positive opportunities for residents.”