More Choices for In-Home Support and Care
The provision of In-Home services for the older person has been growing for many years and is now a significant segment of the aged care industry.
As we become older, our ability to be totally independent diminishes at several different levels. For instance, a variety of necessary tasks such as home maintenance, transport, cooking, personal care and so on become more difficult to do without assistance. At a different level, we may need regular medical attention or attention from allied health professionals such as podiatrists and physiotherapists. At one time, all we could have done was to rely on family members for assistance or to move into a retirement village or aged care facility that offered help in these areas.
With In-Home assistance, the crucial benefit to the older person is that you can easily stay at home or your retirement village home for a significantly longer time and also reduce the dependence on family members. This has a significant impact on the quality of life, not only for the older person but the rest of the family as well. Family burdens are reduced, relationships with children get repaired. The older person has a lot less stress and can enjoy his or her time with a sense of freedom and independence.
Today, In-Home service providers have programmes to assist with necessities in your own home or indeed, in your retirement village.
These services can be self-funded or government-assisted. For government-funded programmes, in the past, the choice of services and the choice of provider did not lie with the consumer but with assessment teams. That is changing, and from July 2015 onwards, the government has brought in reforms that will ultimately lead to “Consumer Directed Care (CDC)”, where the client himself or herself has the choice of the package of services to which their entitlements will be applied and also a choice as to the provider.
The change will have a significant impact on the competitiveness of the whole sector and should benefit all clients whether they are funding the support services themselves or through a subsidy from the government. As competition increases, so does choice and it is important to make the right choice, as it will significantly affect the quality of your life.
The variety of services that may need to be provided to achieve the desired outcomes is very extensive. Government-funded programmes define just a few categories, such as meals, transport, domestic assistance, continence management and so on, however, as you delve a little bit deeper it is clear that the breadth of services required is very large and changes with time. The skills pool needed could include allied health professionals of every type, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, domestic helpers… the list is very extensive and the smaller providers may find it difficult to provide comprehensive services.
We spoke to Gavin Hudson, KinCare’s Queensland State Manager. KinCare is one of the leading providers of in-home care and Gavin explains the importance of finding an in-home service provider that not only offers a selection of services but can tailor these services to the client’s needs: “KinCare has a number of essential services such as cleaning, house maintenance, personal care, taking clients shopping, a medical appointment or a group outing. But these are just the starting points. We work with our clients to develop a customised care plan that meets their unique goals and health and lifestyle requirements. We then tailor services to live the life you choose.”
And it is not only the type of services that are offered which is important. The way in which these services are provided is important too. According to Gavin: “Helping older people in their own homes, to make life easier, is such a personalised service that one size definitely does not fit all. In choosing a provider, perhaps the most critical factor you should consider is just how the provider views the relationship with its clients. Is it a simple commercial transaction – a fee for a specified service – or does it go beyond this?”
Gavin makes a very valid point. The list of services that service providers can offer may be similar, although of course larger providers can have a wider array of services. More important is the attitude of the individual staff member who will be going to the home and the rapport between the staff member and the client.
“As part of our care planning at KinCare, we carry out extensive interviews with new and potential clients and their families,” explains Gavin, and says, “with this vital personal information, we then go through a rigorous process for matching up clients with compatible staff members and then review the relationship on an ongoing basis.
We know that once KinCare commences services, our staff start becoming a part of the life of the person they are assisting. Indeed friendships build and this is what KinCare’s in-home support culture is all about.”
How do industry providers expect that the landscape will change with the greater empowerment and choice being offered in the future by government schemes?
It is a challenge to service the varying and many requirements of client. However, in the long term, it is the providers who can provide what is close to a one-stop-shop, are the ones most likely to survive.
Additionally, all will have to invest very heavily into training. Training will likely become a mandatory expectation for staff, so they will be trained to certificate level as a matter of course.
As services in the In-Home space have always been a mixture of self-funded and government subsidised services, competition has always been there to a certain extent. The new reforms will make the competition that much more intense, which is a good thing all around, and not only in the service offerings and quality of the client experience but also in responsiveness and behind the scenes efficiencies.
Increased competition generally leads to better quality and service delivery, so we can look forward to a whole new level of In-Home support services as part of the aged care landscape in Australia.