Aged Care Future Planning Paid Off

Caroline and Billy

Last week I wrote a blog about future planning for aged care. For Billy and Caroline it paid off. With my help they planned for the day they would move to an aged care facility. Caroline and Billy received an offer from their chosen facility last week, and have gladly accepted it.

Initially they were hesitant to consider moving from their home, despite encouragement to plan for this from both their family and doctor. When I was referred to them in April/May last year they decided to explore the possibilities with my help. Caroline had concerns for the short term that she may need to go to hospital and her husband Billy cannot be left on his own. In the long term they wanted to be together and share a suite. I recommended they get their financials in order so they would be prepared, and referred them to a Financial Planner.  We decided to begin searching in their local area for suitable accommodation.

They continued to manage reasonably well at home with services and assistance from their family until late last year when Caroline needed hospitalisation for a few days. Interim care was arranged for Billy at home but when Caroline had complications and had to stay in hospital longer, I found emergency respite for Billy in one of the homes we had initially visited.  The family were very pleased with the care Billy received but for Caroline it was not the facility where she wanted to spend the rest of her life.

Once Caroline and Billy returned home, she called a family meeting, which I attended, and informed her family that she had decided that it was time for her and Billy to make the transition to permanent residential care. She felt that, should there be another crisis, she did not want this undue pressure put on her family again. They had decided on Kew Gardens Aged Care, so I contacted the facility and asked for their application to be moved from waiting to urgent. Within two months a suite became available. They chose the Kew Gardens aged care facility because it is right across the road from their present home and they already have friends residing there.  Set on the edge of beautiful Kew Gardens, it is aptly named and has a pleasing outlook. They will move shortly. I am so pleased that this transition will be far less stressful for them ,due to their taking action and forward planning. I was happy to assist them in their planning and take pride in doing the best for my clients.

Future Plan Is The Best Way To Care For Parents on The “Tightrope of Aging”

Modern facility lounge

Making the decision to move from the home that you know and in which you have invested so much of yourself is always difficult, no matter at what stage of life you make it.  When you are elderly and no longer capable of caring for yourself it is even more so. There are so many emotional reactions to the idea – reluctance to leave the comfort of your own home, sadness at leaving behind friends or family, fear of an unknown environment, not wanting to be a burden and shame at no longer being able to care for yourself. A book called “Holding the Net: Caring for My Mother on the Tightrope of Aging” by Melanie P Merriman published late last year explores the difficulties faced by two daughters whose ageing mother is fiercely independent and does not want “to be a burden” to her children. They enter a tug of war where their mother fights for her independence whilst they fight for her safety.

The ultimate conclusion Melanie draws is that the discussion about her mother’s future needs and the best way to meet them should have been held early on and a future plan decided upon with all parties in agreement. She realised too late that trying to adhere to her mother’s desire “not to be a burden” actually caused the problems that did become burdensome to Melanie and her sister.

Being at the coalface of this type of situation myself, as an Aged Care Placement Specialist, I often see how difficult the decision to move a parent to an aged care facility can be. Trying to find a suitable place at short notice when a parent has a serious fall or their health seriously deteriorates is very stressful. I strongly advocate that families discuss their elderly parent’s future needs with them in an honest and open way before a crisis occurs. Setting up a future plan for elderly parents in which they feel empowered and involved in the decision making will reduce a great deal of stress if the time comes when they need the added level of care that an aged care facility can provide.

With the depth of knowledge I have of the different aged care facilities, current legislation and the processes involved, I have been able to assist people to set up their future plans. It is always my pleasure to help people find the best option for their later years, where they will feel at home and enjoy their lifestyle.

Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Conference in Melbourne

The 17th Alzheimer’s Australia Biennial National Dementia Conference is being held in Melbourne right now from 17th to 20th October. The title of the Conference is “ Be The Change” – the conference aims to inspire delegates to explore more innovative and creative ways to improve the quality of life and support of people, of all ages, living with all forms of dementia. Being very involved in the aged care sector, as an Aged Care Placement Consultant, I look forward to the ongoing changes and improvements as a result of this conference.

I was very impressed by the great line up of Keynote Speakers that include:

 Dr. Susan Koch, who is currently involved in a project to develop an Australian Community of Practice in Research in Dementia (ACcORD) to improve health outcomes for people with dementia and their carers; Professor Sam Gandy, an international expert in the metabolism of the sticky substance called amyloid that clogs the brain in people living with Alzheimer’s disease; Naomi Feil, developed the now world renowned Validation method and has written two books and numerous articles on the method; Scientia Prof Henry Brodaty AO, one of the world’s leading researchers in dementia, a clinician, policy advisor and a strong advocate for people living with dementia and their carers and Ita Buttrose, National Ambassador of Alzheimer’s Australia, having served as National President from 2011-14, and a former Australian of the Year (2013), she has had a long interest in health and ageing.

 

Dr. Piers Dawes from the University of Manchester is giving the Libby Harrick’s Memorial Oration. Dr. Dawes oration explores the relationship between hearing impairment and cognition, looking at the implications for hearing loss as a biomarker for cognitive well-being and also as a causal contributor to cognitive decline and poor quality of life in older age.

At the Conference research, being jointly undertaken by the University of Melbourne, Dementia Australia and Assistance Dogs Australia, on the affect of assistance dogs on people with early onset dementia was discussed. The research so far has shown that assistance dogs help to relieve loneliness, anxiety and depression for their owners with early onset dementia and gives them the experience of responsible dog ownership. Another bonus is the help they give to carers and family by providing the extra support. This research continues until next year.  I look forward to seeing the final research findings which may be of help to some of my clients who are seeking suitable aged care accommodation.

Greater Transparency About Aged Care Facilities Leads to Consumer Empowerment

It seems that aged care provision is at a cross roads. An article in a series on aged care published in the Sydney Morning Herald in September looked at deregulation. According to the article National President of Dementia Australia, Graeme Samuel says he is “very much in favour” of deregulating the aged care system. He believes that only consumer empowerment will improve it. He says that before this can be achieved the government’s accreditation agency must make some changes, such as introducing more rigorous standards in their accreditation system and the government should allow the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner to have the power to publish the names of aged care facilities that have complaints upheld against them. Drawing from his experience as the former head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission he stated “It’s so obvious. When you start doing that, the consumers are empowered and they’re only ever empowered by transparency and accountability, which was the fundamental mantra of what we did at ACCC.”

Another of Mr. Samuel’s concerns was the lack of hard information to allow elderly people to make sound choices when they select an aged care facility. “People are bombarded with marketing information, whether it’s accurate or not. It’s all huff and puff.”  He claims that selections are made based on this marketing and once they are in the facility and find out it’s not suitable they can’t change easily. Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt acknowledges the problem, saying “I accept that with consumer-directed care what you have to make available is the information relevant to each facility … we should be transparent … and I acknowledge that we don’t do that with aged care.”

As an Aged Care Placement Consultant I am in a position to have access to a lot more information about aged care facilities than most consumers are able to know.  That is the reason I am able to help people to find a facility that suits their particular needs, the depth of knowledge I have of each facility and also the ability to properly assess their needs and wants for their future home.  However, I am in agreement with Mr. Samuel that there needs to be much greater transparency and accountability within this sector to enable elderly people to make a sound selection.  I know, perhaps better than most, how important it is for someone going into an aged care home to get it right. After all, this is their home for the rest of their lives.

Government Stats on Aged Care Provision

Statistics now available from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare paint an interesting picture about aged care services. Statistics on aged care for 2016 indicate that the number of aged care places is increasing, with 1.4 times as many places over the last ten years from 2006 to 2016. As an Aged Care Placement Consultant these stats simply prove what I have already witnessed, the number of elderly people needing aged care is noticeably increasing.

Occupancy rates tell us how close to full capacity the care system is, so it was interesting to note that residential care had the highest occupancy rate for 2015/16 financial year at 92% . Transition care at 88% was next, followed by home care at 83%. Occupancy rates are calculated by adding together the total number of days that all people spent in care during the year, then dividing that number by the total number of places that were available. The stats around occupancy rates for residential aged care is concerning but information that the highest number of builds in the building and construction industry recently has been for aged care residential facilities does give some comfort.

65% of aged care services were run by not-for-profit organisations in 2016. A trend emerged that most of the privately-owned aged care services were in cities whilst in remote areas services were predominantly government run.

Although aged care services can be delivered by any of the following:

  • government organisations,
  • not-for-profit organisations
  • private companies

the Australian Government contributes towards the costs of care for most aged care places. Around 95% of government spending in aged care comes from the Australian Government, with state and territory governments providing 5%.

So, what are the figures?

The governments spent approximately $17 billion on aged care in 2015/16.

69% of this figure was spent on residential aged care.

Expenditure on residential care was 2.7 times that spent on home care and support.

The break up was – $11.5billion on residential care, $4.3 billion on home care and support.

The government recognises that aged care provision is a growing area with an ageing population. In my role wthin the industry, helping people find suitable aged care accommodation, I hope that the required quality and quantity of residential aged care will be provided well into the future.

New Concept For Dementia Aged Care Residence

Artist’s impression Korongee Village

The Netherlands are leaders in innovation in aged care and the dementia village, De Hogeweyk, based there is to be the model for a new residential facility being constructed in Hobart.  The Korongee dementia village in Glenorchy, Hobart will be designed to recreate real-life experiences for people with dementia. The fifteen six-bedroom homes will be set within a small town featuring streets, a supermarket, cinema, café and gardens, with residents wandering freely within a safe and supported environment.

The residents of De Hoeweyk dementia village live longer, eat better and take less medication and it is hoped the same health benefits will be seen in residents at this new Australian facility. The environment within the houses will be more relaxed, with casually-dressed health professionals and residents free to wake up and move about in their own time, free of institutional routines. Residents will live alongside people of like backgrounds, experiences, interests and skills.

A New Zealand aged care provider is also looking at developing a village based on the Hogeweyk design.  They have engaged Aged care specialists Ansell Strategic to undertake a feasibility study for the development of a dementia village in Invercargill. Funding systems and staff-to-resident ratios are among key challenges with the Netherlands model using two carers per resident.  “New Zealand has a similar mixed aged care funding model to Australia, where residents and the government both contribute to the cost of care, said Rosie O’Dowd, assistant analyst “Comparatively, the Netherlands operates under a more tax-financed system, allowing for residential aged care models to be developed based on optimal community modelling rather than a focus on efficiency, scale or aesthetics.”

Korongee village is a partnership between not-for-profit aged care provider Glenview, industry superannuation fund HESTA, social financing organisation Social Ventures Australia (SVA) and the Commonwealth Government. Only many levels, this is the way of the future in Aged Care provision.

As an Aged Care Placement Consultant I await, with great optimism, the opening of this new concept in dementia care in 2019.

 

2017 Budget Announcement Good News For the Aged Care Sector

Pat Sparrow CEO Aged & Community Services Australia

Aged and Community Services Australia said it was pleased government had heeded advice about avoiding further cuts to aged care funding in the 2017 Federal Budget just announced by the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, on Wednesday night. CEO Pat Scott said  “The steady as she goes approach outlined in this Budget is necessary while the Legislated Review and ACFI reviews are completed. Industry and the government will then be able to have a sensible conversation on how aged care funding, including those from the public and private purse, can be structured to ensure our older citizens receive the quality of care they deserve.”

 

The Aged Care Guild had launched a campaign that called on the government to rule out further cuts and welcomed the Budget decision to maintain current levels of funding for aged care. “Funding stability means elderly Australians and their families can be assured that resources will be maintained” said CEO Cameron O’Reilly.

 

Whilst the aged care sector breathed a sigh of relief at the lack of an announcement on aged care funding cuts, they were delighted that the long-running debate on the role of government in helping to establish an age care workforce strategy was finally acknowledged with the Treasurer announcing  $1.19 million over two years to establish and support the taskforce. The industry led aged care workforce taskforce will explore options to improve productivity in the aged care workforce as well as contributing to the development of a strategy which includes regional and remote areas. This is being funded from within existing resources of the Department of Health. It is part of a broader workforce package of $33million also in the new budget, to help aged care and disability service providers in rural and regional areas.

 

Aged and Community Services Australia, which had sought $2 million for a taskforce in its pre-Budget submission to government, also welcomed the announcement of this initiative. “ACSA has been instrumental, with other provider peaks, in advocating the need for such a strategy,” said CEO Pat Sparrow. Along with the Aged Care Guild, Leading Age Services Australia, Catholic Health Australia and Uniting Care Australia ASCA have already developed a framework and all agreed that an industry-led taskforce is needed to develop a workforce strategy.

 

As I observe the affects of government support and cut backs to the aged care sector in my role as an Aged Care Consultant I am pleased to see a positive position from the government in this year’s budget announcement.