Ageing in place: what's changing for our older Australians?

Ageing in place: what's changing for our older Australians?

As Australia’s population ages gracefully and in unprecedented numbers, the desire to continue to live independently into old age is also growing. In this article, we look at what is changing to support our older Australians to be able to live where and how they choose as part of the recent Home Care Reforms (passed by the Senate in March 2016).

Why is the Home Care Reform important for older Australians and their families?

In just three decades time, it is predicted that 40,000 Australians will be celebrating their 100th birthday! At the same time, the number of Australians enjoying life after 65 will be double the number today (based on Commonwealth of Australia data).

Aged care accommodation facilities do provide an important role in our community. The reality is that most of us would prefer to live in our own homes independently for as long as we can. ‘Our own homes’ could include the residence we’ve raised our families in; or an independent villa or apartment in a retirement village or community; or as an extended member of our children’s home. The important point of the definition is that it is about each person’s right to choose their own residence in their  later years.

Having home care support available when we reach that stage of life when we need some help, in a home of our choosing, would feel empowering.

It will be important for the overall well being of an ageing population that they have choices in how and where they live.

What is changing in home care support and services for older people assessed as needing assistance?

With a rapidly growing ageing population, a three phased home care reform is rolling out to support older people to be able to live independently, in their own homes for longer.

As it stands right now, around 70,000 older Australians receive in home care so that they can remain living in their own homes. The care they are receiving right now will continue with more choices available to them over the next couple of years.

The Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Increasing Consumer Choice) was passed by the Senate on 3 March 2016. The first of three phases will commence from 27 February 2017. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on phase one as the second phase hasn’t been detailed at this stage.

The information available on the changes was focused heavily on an industry audience, rather than consumer. This article is a summary of what we understood from the information available to the general public at this point in time.

Here is what we understand is changing:

  • Home care packages are assigned to older people needing support, not to individual providers as is the case today: this means that funding will be recipient focused rather than provider focussed so individuals can select a provider that meets their needs.

  • Funding for a home care package will follow the person needing support: this puts the decision back in the hands of the home care recipient and their family in that if they decide to move elsewhere, the package follows them. The recipient can also change provider if they wish - allowing greater flexibility and encouraging optimal service practices.  It appears that existing recipients today, will also be able to choose this mobility of in-home support.

  • Unspent funds will move with the person needing support: this is a significant change from today. This gives the person needing support, more flexibility to live where it suits them best at the time while they can take their funding for home care support with them and choose their providers in their new location.

  • There will be one new Commonwealth Home Support Program: this new program will bring together the Home and Community Care Program (HACC); National Respite for Carers (NRC); Day Therapy Centres (DTC); and Assistance with Care and Housing for the Aged Program (ACHA).

  • For those assessed with higher level care needs a Home Care Package Program will be available: this package provides services in the person’s home, coordinated and tailored to meet specific needs of the person.

  • There will be four levels of home care packages available: an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) assessment will still be applicable but instead of a 1-2 or 3-4 rating, there will be four levels of care packages available.

This means that a recipient may receive help with domestic support services and personal care such as bathing and dressing, diet and meal preparation, continence management, mobility and dexterity. The person needing support will also be able to access allied health and other clinical services.

What isn’t changing?

For those people already receiving home care support it is important to understand what isn’t changing:

  • existing home care packages will continue

  • home care packages will continue to be capped

  • current fee and income testing arrangements won’t change for now

  • ACATs continue to assess eligibility for care needs.

We welcome in-home care packages that promote independent living

Our philosophy at Retirement Communities Australia retirement villages is to optimise lifestyle choices for our residents and create beautiful places that are warm and friendly but practical to live in.  We welcome home care support packages into our villages while we promote Active Health so that residents can live fulfilling, independent lifestyles.

Where to go to get more information about aged care in home support

My Aged Care will be the main information source for people with aged care support needs and their families. Visit the Help at Home page on My Aged Care to find out more about what is available now.

Information sources for this article

2015 Intergenerational Report – Treasury > Publications and Media > 2015 Intergenerational Report

Summary of My Aged Care System Changes June 2016 – Department of Social Services > Ageing and Aged Care > Programs and Services > My Aged Care

Increasing Choice in Home Care – Northside Community Forum > News > Latest News > Increasing Choice in Home Care

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