Older Australians may be failing to access services available under the Commonwealth home care program because they find the system so confusing, a study indicates.
The lack of confidence is contributing to the blow-out in unspent funds, currently at more than $1 billion, researcher Dr Catherine Joyce says.
The report published in the latest edition of the Australasian Journal on Ageing, found 43 per cent of people who have been allocated a home care package aren’t accessing services because they lack the confidence to do so.
Dr Joyce, how an Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University and general manager of quality, outcomes and research at aged care provider Benetas, says the results are hardly surprising.
But she about one in two people who have been allocated home care package aren’t using it and restoring consumer confidence is crucial if older people are to proactively access services provided by the program.
“The Government subsidised home care package system is incredibly complex and getting clear information during the lengthy application and allocation process is not easy,” she says.
“While the study found that patterns of behaviour meant there would always be some level of unspent funds, this figure is drastically too high and indicates a significant need to focus on building consumer confidence.”
What’s driving the accumulation of unspent funds?
The study sought to understand what is driving the accumulation of unspent funds, based on interviews with 38 Benetas home care package clients between December 2018-2019.
It found a person’s experiences during assessment and entry, as well as their understanding of their funding, influenced their spending decisions.
The researchers said knowledge and understanding about entitlements, available funds and processes associated with the system remains low three years after the introduction of consumer directed care, as does active management of package funds by recipients.
They also found an immature market, with gaps in service, information and support.
Features of the home care market are similar to those seen in the early days of the NDIs, the study says, where up to 40 per cent of funds were unspent thanks to poor planning, insufficient supply and poor access to information.
“The evolving nature of current arrangements serves as a reminder of the magnitude of the transition associated with consumer directed care,” it concludes.
The research also found only three of the 38 participants had looked at the My Aged Care website.
Dr Joyce says the study highlights the need to provide navigation for consumers during the home care application and navigation process, as well as making it as streamlined and user friendly as possible.
Writing in the study, she says current trials of aged care system navigators may help fill the current gap in supports.
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