SHORTER wait times for home care packages are associated with improving life-expectancy of older people and their ability to remain in their own homes.
Research led by the Registry for Older Australians at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute has found that people who wait longer than six months are nearly 20 per cent more likely to have died two years after receiving their home care package than those whose wait was a month or less.
“Demand continues to exceed supply for home care packages because of Australia’s ageing population, but we now have evidence supporting the benefit of shorter waiting times,” said Renuka Visvanathan, Director of the Adelaide G-TRAC Centre within the University of Adelaide.
The research used data from almost 180,000 home care package recipients Australia-wide between 2003 and 2013, before the introduction of the current centralised waiting list.
“We looked at the time taken between each person being approved for a home care package, and when they began receiving those services,” Professor Visvanathan said.
“We then looked at the health outcomes after they received their home care package.”
The mortality increase could have been related to higher care requirements of patients who had difficulty accessing places, but it is also possible that earlier access to packages may have improved survival.
Professor Visvanathan, says that although a causal relationship between prolonged waiting times and mortality has not been established, the evidence supports the need for more home care packages.
Older people waiting longer than six months were also found to be 10 per cent more likely to be in permanent residential care after two years with their package.
“This is important because we know older Australians prefer living in their home,” Professor Visvanathan said.
Latest Government figures show nearly 127,000 people waiting for an appropriate home care package. Many are on packages lower than their approved level, or services through the Commonwealth Home Support Program. The waiting list for some packages is more than 12 months.