Ageing Aussies face year-long wait for support

 

EXCLUSIVE

Aged care queues have blown out to more than a year's wait for nearly 100,000 elderly Australians - and some risk dying before getting home help.

People too frail to feed or wash themselves are being forced to wait at least 12 months for care in their own home, despite getting the green light from government assessors for taxpayer-funded care.

Aged care advocates have warned that some people could die waiting.

New government data reveals that 95,831 Australians approved for a taxpayer-funded "home care package'' (HCP) will need to wait at least 12 months for the service.

Wait times have blown out to more than a year for 97 per cent of elderly Australians in the aged care queue because demand is outstripping funding.

New data shows 95,831 Australians approved for a taxpayer-funded “home care package’’ will wait at least 12 months for the service. Picture: iStock
New data shows 95,831 Australians approved for a taxpayer-funded “home care package’’ will wait at least 12 months for the service. Picture: iStock

Just 3437 people can expect assistance within three to six months - and only because they have "basic care needs'' that are cheaper to fund.

At the end of October, 99,268 Australians were in the queue for aged care after medical assessors deemed them to be in need of help to stay in their own homes.

They include 14,314 elderly people with "high care needs'', who require constant nursing care and help to eat and shower.

Another 40,480 Australians with "intermediate care needs'' - who require help with medication, medical treatment, meals and housework - must also wait at least a year.

All the people waiting have already been approved for a taxpayer-funded "home care package'', which provides between $9000 and $52,000 a year to pay for nursing care, housework, meals and allied health care in their own homes.

NSW has the longest queue, with 32,660 people in line for home care - including 3403 with high care needs.

 

Victoria has the most vulnerable people waiting for care - with 27,094 people waiting for in-home care, including 4132 deemed "high need''.

Queensland's queue of 15,126 includes 1913 of the frailest people with high needs.

In South Australia, 10,578 people are waiting for home care, including 1374 with high care needs.

Tasmania has 2663 residents approved and waiting for in-home care, including 448 deemed "high need''.

The Northern Territory has 421 people waiting for approved care, including 102 with high needs, and the ACT has 1047 people queued for care, including 244 requiring the highest level of care.

Western Australia has 9593 elderly residents waiting for pre-approved care, with 2682 in the high-care category.

Year-long queues have become the norm, despite the Morrison government pouring $2.4 billion into 33,000 extra home care packages over the next four years.

Council on the Ageing (COTA) chief executive Ian Yates yesterday warned that some Australians could die on the waiting list.

Ian Yates, Chief Executive of COTA says the wait lists are “totally unacceptable” in modern Australia. Picture: AAP/James Elsby
Ian Yates, Chief Executive of COTA says the wait lists are “totally unacceptable” in modern Australia. Picture: AAP/James Elsby

The Royal Commission into aged care abuse has revealed that 16,000 Australians on the waiting list died before they could access care in 2019.

Mr Yates said no one approved for care should have to wait more than two months to receive assistance.

"In modern Australia it is totally unacceptable that anyone should have to wait a year for a package after the government has assessed it's needed,'' he told News Corp Australia.

"Very often these people need assistance with personal care, showering and dressing.

"People don't eat properly, and they don't get access to showers as often as they should.''

A federal Health Department spokesman said that 10,000 more home care packages had been funded last month, at a cost of $850 million, on top of 23,000 packages costing $1.6 billion in the October federal budget.

"These significant investments reflect the Government's ongoing commitment to support senior Australians to live in their own homes, reducing wait times for HCPs and connecting those in need to essential care sooner,'' he said.

COTA says no one should be required to wait for longer than two months for support. Picture: iStock
COTA says no one should be required to wait for longer than two months for support. Picture: iStock

"Importantly, around 99 per cent of senior Australians waiting for a HCP at their assessed level also have been offered support from the Government, including an interim HCP or through the Commonwealth Home Support Program and they continue to have access to Australia's world-class health care system.''

The Commonwealth Home Support Program provides some limited care, such as help with showering or meals, but does not cover the full cost.

Mr Yates said the long delays were causing stress and health problems for elderly spouses forced to care for frail partners alone or with minimal assistance.

"An elderly spouse can end up making themselves unwell and people end up in hospital because they're not getting the support they need,'' he said.

Mr Yates said many elderly Australians were shunning nursing homes, due to the risk of COVID-19 infections, and wanted help to stay living in their own homes.

Know more? Natasha.bita@news.com.au

Originally published as Ageing Aussies face year-long wait for support



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