BUT, SENIORS SAY, MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE FOR HOME PATIENTS
SPECIAL NEWS ANALYSIS BY JOHN McNAMEE
A RECENT report by National Seniors Australia (NSA) showed that although most seniors receiving aged care at home thought workers treated them with respect, met their personal care and support needs and were generally well trained there were still many areas which needed to be improved.
Some of these negative issues included poor training for dementia care and a lack of continuity of care for dementia patients.
Half of those questioned stressed that there needed to be better coordination between home care and health services.
The report was commissioned by the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce in a bid to build a comprehensive and sustainable workforce strategy and improve the quality of life of the aged.
The findings stemmed from a National Seniors Australia survey of more than 4,500 Australians aged over 50, interviews with aged care clients and their care providers and consumer stories of their journey in aged care from home situations to nursing home admission.
The report’s author, NSA research director Professor John McCallum said although there was strong agreement of care workers treating clients with respect, there were also negative areas of concern that needed to be addressed.
In a statement released by NSA, Prof McCallum said: “People complained about services being delivered at times or in ways that were inconvenient to the client, a lack of continuity of care for dementia patients and poor training in dementia care.
“They also expressed frustration caused by WH&S constraints on cleaning, and poor cleaning services generally; waiting too long to be assessed and having to accept a lower level package until a higher one became available; poor communication from providers and poor administration of services generally.”
Prof McCallum said action was needed to address these deficiencies, especially because rapid growth was expected in demand for aged care services delivered at home.
He also said another major concern was that more than 40% of family members and others providing unpaid care said their health was affected.
He said these issues included the need for better access to respite care, opportunities for training, physical health impacts, stress, mental exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed, loss of income and difficulties dealing with family dynamics.
“People do this caring with love but it shouldn’t make them sick or in need of care themselves,” he said.
Some of the initiatives considered would be training for informal carers, mandated courses and qualifications for personal care workers and managers, increased access to short courses for ongoing skills development and more targeted on-the-job training.
Meanwhile both the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA) and the NSA were lukewarm in their response to the May Budget’s funds allocation.
The Work Bonus for Age Pensioners went up from $250 a fortnight to $300, an annual increase from $6,500 to $7,800.
NSA Chief Advocate, Ian Henschke, said this would allow pensioners to earn more before their pension was reduced.
“We’ve been arguing pensioners should not be penalised for working but encouraged to do so. They should be allowed to earn more so they can improve their standard of living, rather than penalised with pension cuts,” he said.
“While we sought a lift in the work bonus to $10,000, this is at least an increase and we’re also pleased that for the first time this initiative has been extended to include self-employed pensioners,” he said.
He did welcome the Budget changes to the Pension Loan Scheme which would allow everyone of age pension age with equity in their home to borrow up to 150% of the age pension each year.
“This means a couple can borrow almost $56,000 a year against their home at an interest rate of 5.25%. Rather than being asset rich and cash poor, they can now have a comfortable level of retirement,” he said.
“Given that 75% of pensioners and home owners this measure has the potential to reduce a lot of pension poverty.”
He also called for double the number of Level 3 and 4 home care packages to allow people to stay in their own homes and out of residential aged care.
“We are pleased the Government has committed to fund 14,000 high level packages over the next four years in addition to the 6,000 places announced last December,” he said.
“But sadly there are still tens of thousands of people waiting for the level of home care they need.. and this will remain the situation for some years to come unless more money is out into this vital area,” he said.
Mr Henschke said he welcomed the $146 million in extra funding to provide aged care services in rural, remote and indigenous communities, along with $32.8 million for palliative care.
He said the NSA welcomed the abolition of superannuation exit fees as it would encourage people to consolidate their super for increased returns on investments.
But he said the NSA was disappointed key elements of its Federal Budget submission to the government, including an overhaul of the health insurance industry to reduce the soaring costs of premiums, excessive out-of-pocket medical expenses and retention of the energy supplement, had been overlooked.
In their statement, the CPSA said: “While it is clear that the Government has an increased focus on keeping people out of nursing homes, the 14,000 additional home care packages over four years should be seen against a background of approximately 74,000 consumers who have a package and 104,000 consumers who are waiting on one.
“The Home Care Package waiting list is starting to look like a promise on the never-never.”
The CPSA also stated they were disappointed that the Government had not dropped its plans to raise the pension age to 70, to close the Energy Supplement and to cut the Pension Supplement if a pensioner spends longer than six weeks overseas.
“We’re calling for a significant increase in the Newstart and related allowances. Newstart is the payment many older Australians who have not reached pension age rely on.
“Spending $190 million over five years on doubtful employment training programs for older Australians ignores the misery of tens of thousands of other older Australians having to live on $40 a day.”
The author acknowledges the information and statistics provided by National Seniors Australia and the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants
Left pic: National Seniors Australia Research Director Professor John McCallum… not enough training for dementia care.
Right pic: National Seniors Australia Chief Advocate Ian Henschke….push for higher Work Bonus scheme for age pensioners.