Why Australians are still confused over home-care packages

Older Australians still feel disempowered and overwhelmed when it comes to choosing home-care packages, a new report has found.

Last month, the government introduced a new $662 million package to support older Australians, including 10,000 home care packages.

“We need to have a culture of respect and care ... It’s why as Prime Minister and Treasurer I have delivered thousands of additional home-care places,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.

“These places give older Australians the choice about how and where they want to live their lives.”

However, according to the Financial Capability of Older People report, Australians over 65 still found the options and rules confusing.

“Home-care packages support people to stay in their own homes for longer, so they are a really appealing option for people as they age or become less independent,” said Dr Braam Lowies, property lecturer at the University of South Australia and lead researcher of the report.

“But our research found that older people felt insecure about their capacity to manage home-care packages to their best advantage and we wanted to understand why.”

The report, which was based on interviews with 31 men and women aged over 65, found that older Aussies wanted simpler fee structures and more control over how the funds are allocated for their home care packages.

“You pay this $170 a month essential care … I mean, what is that actually supposed to mean?” one respondent said.

“Because they’re getting all these cuts out of what they are organising for you. Now, is this another administration fee? And if it is, what are they doing for me?”

The respondents also identified customer communication and convenience as some of the most important issues to address.

“We found a host of problems from a general lack of confidence and lack of knowledge of the system among older people, to overly complicated communications, high staff turnover and inadequately trained staff providing in home care, inconsistencies in package administration, confusing fee structures and even inaccurate billing processes,” said Lowies.

“Unfortunately, the more complicated and inaccessible the programs are, the more it creates a lack of confidence and motivation for older people accessing services.”

The participants also wished services were more customised to cater to older people better. This included the use of age-appropriate language, simplified terms and plain language.

“It is key that institutions find ways to become more age-friendly and commit to making the changes that will deliver services that are more customer-focused,” said Lowies.