Consumer directed care isn’t working for older rural people living in smaller regional and rural areas, research suggests.

Professor Irene Blackberry outlines her
research at the AAG Conference 2020.

The results of a small study carried out over the last year, which investigated the barriers to accessing HCP and CHSP for the one in three older Australians living in rural areas, was presented at the AAG conference last Friday.

Researcher Irene Blackberry, John Richards Chair of Rural Ageing and Aged Care Research at La Trobe University and President of Australian Association of Gerontology Victoria, said while CDC is good in principle, gaps remain in rural and regional areas.

The first part of the study involved interviews with 20 older people, with a mean age of 81, living in regional/rural Victoria and NSW.

That was followed by a further survey which included staff from 10 small rural health services.

“Overall, the researchers found that the model of consumer directed care could possibly work for older rural people living in larger regional cities and in which there is more than one viable aged care service provider,” Professor Blackberry writes in an abstract submitted to the conference.

“However, for older rural people living in smaller regional and rural towns and areas, this model does not appear to be viable.”

The study found a lack of awareness of community services, with one respondent saying: “We weren’t aware of anything.  It was only because they (the health service) alerted us to it. I wouldn’t have known such a thing existed”.

Rural older people tended to rely on health professionals, friends, peers or family to get advice about services, the surveys showed.

“There is a lack of clear and detailed information about what services will or will not be delivered,” Professor Blackberry said in her presentation, as well as a lack of information about the cost of services.

Another respondent expressed concerns about administrative charges.

“I said, now what are you actually doing for that?” the respondent said. “I was asking because they weren’t very much different to (another provider) but I don’t know how they arrived at that charge. What I was looking for and didn’t get was a breakdown.”

Professor Blackberry says there’s a clear need to raise awareness about services available, how to access them and the benefits of making use of services early.

Local advisors

She also says there should be dedicated for an independent local advisor to advise about the services available in each local government area.

“What the older people are telling us is that a lot of the time the information that they have received is not relevant because a lot the time the services are not available locally,” Professor Blackberry told the conference.

There should also be mandatory training and continuing professional development for primary health care teams to proactively support older people in accessing aged care services, and information provided through My Aged Care needs to be easier to understand and more user-friendly.

Professor Blackberry’s research forms part of a project funded by the Consumer Policy Centre called Empowering Older People in Accessing Aged Care Services in a Consumer Market which released its final report in May.

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