Damning care report a wake-up call

Flinder University's damning report of Australia's aged care system

Aged Care Royal Commission
Other countries spend more per capita on aged care and provide more care in the home and community. Photo: Shutterstock.

Other countries spend more per capita on aged care and provide more care in the home and community. Photo: Shutterstock.

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Australia is falling behind other countries in aged care spending, putting more people in institutions.

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Australia is falling behind other countries when it comes to spending on aged care according to a new report by Flinders University.

The authors, who produced the report for the royal commission into aged care, point to Denmark and Sweden as countries likely to have good quality care with both spending more than 4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. Australia spends around 1.2 per cent.

Both countries fund long term care through local authorities with federal grants and local taxes; and both focus on keeping older people out of residential care by providing long term home care with a moderate proportion of people in residential care institutions.

Australia's spending on long-term care is among the lowest of the 22 countries in the study and a relatively high proportion of long term care recipients are in residential institutions while most other countries support a greater share of aged care recipients in the home and community.

The report also says that staffing in Australia's residential institutions appears at the lower end of the range internationally for both total staffing and nursing.

The authors say improvements could be made in some key areas including:

  • Increasing support for home-based care and informal carers, more high-level home care packages and more general leave provisions and financial assistance for informal carers
  • Increased involvement of local or regional authorities in the regulation and monitoring of long term care
  • Increasedprofessionalism of the workforce, for example mandatory training or registration of care workers, increased transparency in staffing levels, public availability of quality of care indicators and mandatory reporting
  • Better integration with the healthcare system, stronger focus on rehabilitation and maintaining function to delay and avoid disability and incorporation of principles of human rights in the aged care standards.

Industry peak Aged Care Services Australia said the research was a wake up call for the economy and for those people entering retirement who may need aged care in the next 20 years.

"The harsh reality is that despite Australia being a prosperous nation, we are falling behind because we don't value older people enough," said chief executive Patricia Sparrow.

"Not only is the aged care sector underfunded compared to other countries, but Australians who make huge sacrifices to care for elderly relatives don't get the same level of benefits either."

In another research paper by Flinders University the authors examined approaches to aged care which are not widely available in Australia and identified some which could potentially have benefits including:

  • Small, domestic residential care homes that maximise the independence of residents and their participation in daily activities. These small homes can be adapted for specialised needs such as people with dementia.
  • Supports, such as individualised training, for people with dementia living at home and their carers saying there was some evidence such supports delay functional decline and reduce depression among carers.
  • System navigators or care coordinators who facilitate streamlined access to care for people with dementia or other chronic health conditions.
  • Respite services provided in settings aligned to people's backgrounds,such as farm settings for people with dementia living in agricultural areas.
  • Training and accreditation practices to increase awareness and availability of culturally appropriate services for people with diverse backgrounds.
  • Telehealth communicationsthat enable better access to health and other care services for people less able to travel or who live in remote regions.
  • Remote support of independent living through 'health smart homes' that use sensors to monitor a person's health conditions and signs they need assistance.

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