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.

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.”

Allied Health Professions Australia CEO Claire Hewat
Grant Corderoy

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).

Costs per hour for allied health. Source: 2020 StewartBrown Allied Health Deep Dive

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.

Claire Hewat

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.

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5 Comments

  1. The old term used in aged care is Diversional Therapy. The allied health term emerging in Australia is Recreation Therapy. Recreation Therapy are allied health professionals and definitely have a place in Australian aged care.

  2. Yes most definitely Diversional Therapy /Recreation Therapy are allied health professionals and play a critical part in providing and facilitating residents social, leisure, recreation, cultural, religious , spiritual and community care needs by assessing, implementing and evaluating these activities.. We are a allied health profession with a university degree, a professional body etc. Quite often we are understaffed, work with little budgets and resources but still find a way to implement appropriate resident focussed programs. Especially during COVID our role has been even more critical in modifying programs, support and social connectedness and links with community during these difficult times . Another disappointment to read this statement, again overlooked snd undervalued as a profession, we were not classed as essential workers and therefore not entitled to the COVID payment. I ask a question what attracts “ consumers” to a certain aged care facility ( the leisure program) and yet we are still having to work so hard to promote the benefits of degree qualified Diversional Therspists.

  3. Thanks for commenting Nicole. Greater promotion of the correct terms and skill / knowledge sets of those with Recreation Therapy degrees is needed.

  4. Thank you for this post; I have worked in DT for 20 years in a small community facility and as Aged Care nurse at the facility for 13 years before that; Never have I felt so undervalued in my position ( and not by my management) as I do now; the system is broken as the people who deem policies times and money have it all wrong, never have consulted us the workers on the floor; in our position we are all things to our beautiful people; we are their escape from mundane days we are their friends who laugh with them create sparkle in their lives each day, take them out to see the outside world and most of all we care for them by giving. Our time to listen to them ; among our job descriptions we are also called on to assist with feeding at mealtimes, escorting them to appointments, assisting to toilet them plus many other tasks we get called on to do; and that’s without the documentation musts, the programme planning and preparations which is a constant task to be able to fulfil our occupations; I am fortunate enough to have good management who understands why we fraustrated when we realise that at times we cannot give enough to our residents; I believe this is due to not having nursing ratios as well and if only people who run these commissions etc stop looking at percentages and look at reality and realise that we DTs are NOT allied health we are our residents HOPE for some sort of normality to their lives; We are just as important to their daily lives and care as our nurses who are classed as Care Staff; let me tell you that me assistant and I care and know for everyone of our 103 residents trying to give more than the suggested percentages; so yes never have I feel so devalued in our industry than I do now, I’m sorry to have gone on but I have worked for our facility for 33 years and yes I am almost 77 years of age doing a job I am passionate about and feel it’s time someone brought our profession into the real world not just some figures; I am so fortunate to be working in a facility that cares about the total quality of our residents but know that DTs everywhere are probably not so fortunate.

  5. Eleven minutes of allied health per week is appalling and appears to to be limited to physical wellbeing or amelioration of ailments. I find it fascinating that “allied health” includes absolutely no mention of social workers, psychologists and other mental health counsellors who could help residents maintain or improve mental wellbeing. Yet Social Workers and Psychologists are accredited by Medicare as allied health professionals with special education in mental health.

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