Aged care residents receive an average of 15 minutes of allied health services daily from staff and external contractors, costing homes around $12 per person each day, StewartBrown’s first survey on this aspect of care shows.
The 2020 StewartBrown Allied Health Deep Dive included 62 aged care providers and 331 aged care homes, accounting for around 12 per cent of homes nationally.
Almost half of the 15 minutes was provided by lifestyle officers (47 per cent) who account a third of the allied health costs measured by the survey (32 per cent).
It found that residents received about 10 minutes of allied health care from internal staff, which was most likely a lifestyle officer followed by physiotherapy, diversional therapy or a therapy assistant, according to the report.
Residents receive on average another five minutes from external contractors, which is most often physiotherapy followed by occupational therapy and podiatry, the report found.
It is less than the recommended 22 minutes of allied health care proposed by Counsel Assisting the aged care royal commission as part of its four-star star staffing model (read more here).
The survey found this cost homes on average $11.97 per resident each day, including $5.90 for internal staff and $6.07 for external contractors.
StewartBrown senior partner Grant Corderoy said the current funding arrangements mean providers are constrained by how much money and time they can spend on this type of care.
“From an hours per day point of view, I would have hoped that there’s funding to allow for the number of hours to be higher than what they are,” Mr Corderoy told Australian Ageing Agenda.
The survey found that the lifestyle officer category recorded the greatest amount of time spent on care per resident each day (7.2 minutes) followed by physiotherapy (1.2 minutes).
Speech pathology has the highest cost per hour for all staff and contractors ($123) while lifestyle officers has the lowest ($31). Almost all lifestyle offices are internal staff employed (97 per cent).
Mr Corderoy said he hoped the findings drew more financial support for allied health services in aged care.
“I would like to hope this is a forerunner of saying we need to have more funding and therefore aged care providers are able to provide more access to these services,” he said.
Figures “very low”
Allied health peak body Allied Health Professions Australia CEO Claire Hewat agreed much more funding is needed in this area.
However she said including lifestyle officers as part of allied health significantly skewed the results of this survey.
“They make up 32 per cent of the supposed allied health staffing mix but they are not allied health and neither are diversional therapists,” Ms Hewat told AAA.
If lifestyle officers and diversional therapists were excluded the numbers would be much closer to the findings of the royal commission, she said.
As previously reported, research for the royal commission published in October 2019 found that only 2 per cent of Australian aged care residents are in homes that meet the recommended 22 minutes of allied health services per day.
The current Australian average is eight minutes and requires a 175 per cent increase to reach the recommended 22 minutes (read more here).
When you exclude lifestyle officers from the results, the total allied health hours is about 10 minutes, which is very low and needs to at least double, Ms Hewat said.
“Also this is an average. In many residential aged care facilities, there is much less or none at all especially if lifestyle officers are removed from the equation,” she said.
Without lifestyle officers, total spending on allied health is about $8.20, which “is a tiny drop in the ocean compared to the total aged care budget,” Ms Hewat said.
There are high costs associated with avoidable hospital admissions from residential aged care facilities, such as falls, fractures and malnutrition, which could be reduced with greater investment in allied health services, she said.
“In order for residents to get the services which allow them to be as able as they can, to prevent unnecessary deterioration and get the treatment they need, allied health needs to be seen as a core aged care service, not an extra, and funded accordingly.
“The government needs to step up and take responsibility for this and work with the aged care providers to ensure residents get the care they need,” she said.
Access the report here.