Senior home care recipients are being given greater access to personal monitoring technology during self isolation.
Monitoring systems send an alert to a staffed centre, or family member, in an emergency at the push of a button or using automated technology.
Home Care Package and Commonwealth Home Support Program recipients can currently apply for access to monitoring services, but the Government has announced additional flexibility to fund these services with many older people isolated at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Richard Colbeck, said the flexibility relates primarily to service providers under the Commonwealth Home Support Program, which provides entry-level support for around 840,000 older people who need help to stay at home.
Under the program, organisations are funded to provide specified types of services, such as meals delivery, allied health, home maintenance and domestic assistance.
"Restrictions on the use of funds have been relaxed to allow all service providers with unspent 2019-20 funding to purchase up to $1000 worth of personal monitoring technology for their vulnerable clients in need of this support during COVID-19," Mr Colbeck said.
The initiative, which will include offering subscriptions to registered monitoring services for one year, is targeted at clients where social isolation is creating health and safety risks.
Mr Colbeck said ensuring vulnerable people can get help when they need it is "top priority" during this difficult time.
"These personal monitoring systems allow a person to seek help even when they can't use a phone," he said.
"They can provide peace of mind and a sense of security to vulnerable senior people and their families and carers during self-isolation. Even though the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Australia has dropped to lower levels, this pandemic is far from over."
Providers are responsible for working with clients to determine whether they have a need and willingness to use personal monitoring technology.
An aged care assessment is not required.
Service providers will be able to choose from a range of monitoring and alert services, many of which have indicated an ability to expand their operations.
A financial contribution may be required by clients depending on the technology chosen.
"In addition, those CHSP providers who are funded to provide individual or group social support activities can also use grant funds to purchase IT (such as tablets, smart devices, and internet subscriptions) to help connect older people to their family, carers and social groups," Mr Colbeck said.
Home Care Package recipients can also use their packages to access personal monitoring services.
Home care providers are responsible for determining with care recipients how this best meets their goals, care needs, preferences and within their package budget.
The government will still contribute to the South Australian Government's Personal Alarm Rebate Scheme already available to SA seniors.
The news follows the introduction of welfare checks for people who have put their home support packages on hold, and a $10 million boost for the Community Visitors Scheme for aged care.
Spike in demand
Not-for-profit personal alarm service provider MePACS has seen a 60 per cent spike in demand for elderly alarms, with more than 400 welfare calls made every day to check on seniors' wellbeing.
MePACS is a 24/7 personal alarm response service responded to by trained professionals, based in Australia. They guarantee to respond to an activated alert for help from any client within two minutes.
"In a time of concern for many seniors, especially when excluded from contact with close family members, this technology helps reduce distress and anxiety for clients," said MePACS spokesperson Karen Smith.
She said with some seniors suspending their home care services, they were even more vulnerable on a day to day basis.
- Seniors COVID-19 support line, 1800-171-866.