Safer at Home: Australians deserve to get care at home as soon as they need it

Safer at Home: Australians deserve to get care at home as soon as they need it

COTA Australia’s Safer at Home campaign today called for next Tuesday’s Federal Budget to ensure no older Australian waits more than 30 days for a home care package, as official figures show at least 19,000 older Australians waiting for home care were forced into a nursing home last year because they couldn’t get the care they need at home.

COTA Australia Chief Executive, Ian Yates, said government figures indicate over 100,000 people are waiting at home for the correct level of care they need to stay safer at home, including 59,071 who have no package.

“Of those 100,000 people are waiting at home to get the care they need, around 19,000 each year are forced into residential care and over 10,000 die waiting for care at home,” said Mr Yates, “and on top of that many more went to a nursing home because their family knew how long they would have to wait for home care.

“In addition, at least 20 percent of older Australians already in residential aged care during this pandemic don’t need to be there. That’s 50,000 people that can’t remain safer at home because the system has let them down, and let their families down.”

Safer at Home is calling on the Federal Government to ensure no one is forced to wait longer than 30 days for the home care package they are assessed to need, by funding an additional 60,000 home care packages in this Budget.

Mr Yates said the Aged Care Royal Commission’s COVID-19 report, exposed critical failures by some residential aged care providers to provide care and quality of life for older Australians during the pandemic.

The Royal Commission’s Interim Report in October 2019 also revealed the chronic shortage of packages that would support people to stay at home as they age and recommended that the Government take immediate action.

Mr Yates acknowledged the Government has increased home care packages by more than 50,000 since the 2018 Budget, and the number of people receiving home care had increased by 38% since March 2019 but that is not enough to clear the current 100,000+ wait-list and 18 month waiting time for the right level of care at home.

He said COTA had been inundated with calls from older Australians and their families concerned about loved ones in residential aged care and frustrated at not being able to get support and care at home.

“We know most older people feel safer at home as they age. They’re happier in their own home. They want to stay at home. It’s their right to make that choice.  However, we receive far too many calls from older people or families at their wits end because they have waited 18 months or more for the care they need at home.

“Many older Australians end up hospitalised with illness or injury that could have been avoided if they had more help.  Many are are also isolated and alone in their homes without support – which is the key cause of poor mental health and deterioration in older people, often resulting in premature admission into residential aged care.

“It is a situation that we would not accept at any other stage of life and should not be acceptable as we age either.

“Once someone is assessed for home care they shouldn’t have to wait more than 30 days for support they need. Any assessment should also be done within 14 days of being requested. Older Australians can’t wait any longer.”

Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439; Jenny Stokes 0478 504 280

Safer at Home – Key facts

  • 136,909 people receive a Home Care package – a 38 percent increase since 31 March 2019.*
  • Over 100,000 older Australians are waiting for their correct assessed level of care.*
  • 59,071 people are receiving no home care package at all, including 7,400 people who have the highest level of need.*
  • Only 43% of the 211,029 people needing or receiving a care package are getting the care at the right level of support.*
  • At least 20% of people in residential aged care don’t need to be there. That’s 50,000 Older Australians forced to live in a nursing home because there wasn’t enough home care and community support services.
  • 19,000 Older Australians per year are forced into a nursing home because they didn’t get sufficient support for them to remain at home
  • Over 10,000 more people die each year waiting for the care they need.
  • Nearly 1 in 7 (14%) of Australians over 80 years live in residential aged care facilities – one of the highest rates of all developed countries.

*Latest figures March 2020

Rosemary, Regional Victoria

“I was always positive about continuing to care for my husband at home, however due to the symptoms of his dementia, the demands became greater and I became more exhausted.”

Rosemary applied for a package of care, but it never came.  Donald was eventually forced into residential care.

“What I really needed was to be able to devote my time to Don within the home, with home care services to support me, such as cleaning or preparation of meals, while I was caring for Don, and even some company for Don to have other than me all of the time, so that I could rest in between caring for him.  I was also too exhausted to continue fighting for these services, and constantly hit obstacles in trying to find help and support.”

Maureen, Melbourne

“About 12 months ago, mum had another fall and needed another hip replacement.  In hospital she came down with pneumonia and we thought this was the end.  She recovered from the infection but now also needed rehabilitation to walk again.  At 89, the staff at the hospital didn’t give her much hope and when she wasn’t back on her feet within 6 weeks they told us she has to go to a nursing home.  We thought that she would be able to go home with some more rehabilitation and some more support at home, but in the end, we had to find a nursing home.

There is a positive side to this story.  It took a while, but mum was able to get the rehabilitation she needed in the nursing home and she is up and walking with her frame again.  

She now doesn’t need to be in a nursing home anymore, but now there is now no home to go to and even if we could take her home there is no package to support her.”

Maureen, Perth

“I was an advocate for my friend.  She died about 18 months ago waiting for a home care package.  

At 76, my friend had a fall at home and was taken to hospital.  Whilst in hospital she had another fall and a stroke. She was discharged from hospital into the care of her husband who had just had cardiac surgery.  The hospital made no effort to make sure she was going to have the care she needed at home.

It took eight weeks for an aged care assessment for services at home with a recommendation for fortnightly housekeeping. 

My friend was hospitalised again soon after this she died waiting for the supports she needed.”