Opinion piece by Richard Hearn, former CEO Resthaven Incorporated
As December heralds the festive season and a time of reflection on the past year, I think about the important, good work of those working in aged care services.
Those people are carers, medical practitioners and health workers, who continue to support individuals with their particular needs during this period. It is critically important.
Reflecting on the year, we learnt that there were more than 1.3 million people who received Federal Government aged care services of various types. On 30 June 2017, more than 71,000 individuals were receiving support in their own home via a Home Care Package (HCP), and approximately 180,000 were living in residential aged care homes. Many others benefit from the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP), with less complex or short-term services.
We await various reviews undertaken in relation to quality in residential aged care and how changes to the system may further improve consistency in quality across services. Overall, I believe Australia’s service system continues to offer good quality (albeit with challenging exceptions at times). Such services are greatly relied upon by those requiring support.
For the first time, following deregulation of Home Care Packages (HCP) in February this year, the Government’s new prioritisation wait-list for Home Care Packages identified the number of eligible people waiting for a package at their assessed level of need. Disturbingly, recent reports indicate it is now more than 100,000! This includes around 40,000 people receiving an interim lower level Home Care Package.
The government must prioritise action to reduce this queue. Those on the queue deserve support to remain in their home, reducing potential premature entry to a residential aged care home.
Christmas offers the opportunity for us all to reach out to neighbours, friends and family and to include them in the festive spirit, particularly those individuals who are not as connected to family, friends and community. Small gestures can mean a lot.
We may notice deterioration in the health of older family members who may find it difficult to manage – a decline that may have gone unnoticed in the busy day to day lives we lead. It may be time to investigate and discuss options with older family members, to assist them in sustaining independence and quality of life, and to be prepared and well informed in making future plans.
Enjoy a happy and blessed Christmas.