Call to end aged care pot luck

Aged care in Australia can be seen as pot luck and this simply isn’t good enough. In the lead up to Election 2016, consumers, providers and workers groups are calling for both major parties to offer more certainty by addressing the shortage of home care services and residential care.

The National Aged Care Alliance (NACA), which consists of 48 consumer, provider and staff groups, says it is launching a campaign following the failure of both the Coalition and Labor to address issues facing older Australians who require aged care.

It noted that figures from the Productivity Commission enquiry into aged care services showed that 40 per cent of people who were deemed eligible to receive home care services actually had to wait more than three months to access any assistance. This figure is also mirrored in those Australians seeking a permanent aged care residential place.

Paul Sadler, President of Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), which represents not-for-profit service providers and is part of NACA said, “If you need a health service through Medicare, you receive a service. In aged care at the moment that’s not guaranteed, there’s a cap on the number of places a cap on the dollars that are available for aged care.”

Following on from the 2011 Productivity Commission report, Caring for Older Australians, the aged care industry is going through a 10-year period of change, which both major parties broadly support. A government advisory committee has set out a plan for this process and NACA is calling for a commitment to the next phase of changes. “We need both sides of politics to explicitly commit to that roadmap over the next five to seven years,” Mr Sadler said.

Budget 2016/17 included a saving of $1.2 billion, over four years, from payments made to aged care providers for individuals with complex care needs. While the Government claims this move will address a higher-than-expected increase in aged care costs, Mr Sadler claims it will only hurt those who need the most care. “This is the third adjustment to the aged care funding instrument since 2012.

“We really need stability in the way aged care is funded and that’s what we’re calling for.”

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Opinion: More aged care help needed

Ask anyone who has ever tried to arrange aged care, whether it’s a home care service or a residential aged care placement and they will tell you that the process is severely flawed. The very nature of aged care means that decisions about caring for older relatives are often made under pressure and without fully understanding the implications, especially financial. There is little or no assistance from the Government, with its My Aged Care website offering only the most basic of information. The fact that everyone’s circumstances are indeed different means that people often feel alone at a very difficult and stressful time.

Even arranging care at home can be difficult. While the relatively new Consumer Directed Care packages are aimed at giving people more control and say in the services they engage, there have been many questions raised about the associated fees charged and whether consumers really are getting value for money.

And when it comes to choosing a residential aged care placement, well, in many instances there simply is no choice. Residential aged care is often arranged when a person can no longer cope at home and has been hospitalised after an accident. The only choice available is either take the place offered or don’t and then work out how it will be funded.

Tinkering with the aged care system doesn’t help. The system is already too difficult for your average Australian to understand and navigate.

Five years ago, the Productivity Commission provided a blueprint for an effective and manageable aged care system but by choosing which recommendations to implement and which to ignore, successive governments have simply made an unwieldy system even more so. Perhaps it’s time for both parties to pull the document out of the filing cabinet and remind themselves just how important it is to provide valuable, effective and accessible care for older Australians.

Have you tried to understand the aged care system, either through care at home or residential care? Do you have a plan in place for any aged care you may require in the future? Do you think aged care should be a major issue to be addressed during the election campaign?

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