Most Australians want to grow old and receive care in their own homes, research conducted by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety shows.
A survey of more than 10,000 Australians reveals that 80 per cent of older people want to remain in their current home and 62 per cent want to receive care services in their own home.
Only 25 per cent of older people said they would prefer to live in a facility.
The findings underscore how out-of-kilter the nation’s aged care system is with community expectations, given the current shortage of home care packages and long waiting lists which often result in older people going into residential care prematurely or against their wishes.
“Australians want the government and community to assist older people to live well in their own homes for as long as possible,” Royal Commissioners Tony Pagone and Lynelle Briggs said, adding the results highlight the need for reform.
Desire to remain independent
The research was carried out by Roy Morgan between October 2019 to January 2020, along with a large qualitative study by Ipsos involving 35 focus groups and 30 in-depth interviews between July to September 2019.
The results are presented in Research Paper 4 – Ageing and Aged Care Survey and Research Paper 5 – They look after you, you look after them: Community attitudes to ageing and aged care.
“There is a clear preference, across all demographics and ages, to remain living independently as long as possible,” Research Paper 5 says.
Most people say they would prefer family support in their older years, although they see the delivery of personal care, such as help with hygiene, toileting and nursing, as “inappropriate and burdensome” for family members.
The research found most older people who are living independently enjoy happy, healthy and active lives.
But some need support to continue living independently, including help with shopping, cooking, cleaning, and attending medical appointments.
When asked to nominate the most important service, older Australians prioritised home cleaning first, then help with personal hygiene and medical services.
The most common source of support received by older Australians was paid help delivered by for-profit, non-profit and government organisations, which is used by 78 per cent of those receiving support. Just 23 per cent received support from family.
Senior Research Director at Roy Morgan Gerry Bardsley said the research contained a clear message about older people’s preferences and expectations of where they wanted to be looked after and where the financial responsibility should lie.
“There was a really strong message there that they want to be staying in their own homes, at the same time they do have probably a more realistic perspective in the sense that they see the services they need will come from government rather than having a dependency on family and friends,” he told Community Care Review.
The survey also provided an insight into the sort of services that were seen as important, Mr Bardsley said.
“Older people are most interested in getting support services that relate to quality of their living in their home, such as housekeeping and cleaning,” he said.
Older Australians valued
The study found that over 90 per cent of Australians value seniors and reject negative attitudes towards them, and believe society has an obligation to look after older people.
Nearly half believe the government should be most responsible for paying for the lower level support services to help older people remain in their own homes, and most think the government should be responsible for higher level care.
But the research also revealed there’s a lack of knowledge about aspects of the aged care system.
Only nine per cent of people said they knew about the My Aged Care portal, and only 4 per cent had heard of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
This lack of awareness about the aged care system helps explain why governments have neglected to fix major, obvious problems, the Royal Commission says.
Young people in residential care
The research also looked at young people living in residential care.
It found they were well informed about the process of getting a place in care and but also extremely critical of the care they received, in particular with respect to cleanliness, personal hygiene, stimulation for residents and respect and dignity of care.
They reported it was extremely difficult to find an appropriate aged-care facility with staff that were adequately trained to meet their needs, and highlighted questions about the appropriateness of young people living in aged care.
They also said it was vital for family and carers to be constantly advocating on behalf of the younger person in residential aged care in order to ensure that the facility took appropriate care of them.
“You can’t just throw your relative (in the nursing home). You have to be there at least once a day, four times a week, to get things better. You need the cooperation between the family and the nursing home,” one respondent said
Access Research Paper 4 – Ageing and Aged Care Survey and Research (Roy Morgan) Paper 5 – They look after you, you look after them: Community attitudes to ageing and aged care (IPSOS) here.
This story first appeared in Community Care Review.