Elderly die in wait for aged care funding – report shows

Elderly die in wait for aged care funding – report shows

More than 230 older Australians have died each week while waiting for government funded help to stay in their homes and to assist with daily tasks, according to a report in Perth’s Sunday Times newspaper (12 January 2020).

The article by reporter Annika Smethurst, stated that according to new government figures released this month, more than 30,000 older Australians died or were forced into a nursing home while waiting for in-home care packages in 2018-19.

While the number of people dying before being offered home help had dropped from 16,000 in 2017-18 to 11,987 last year, 40% more were forced into aged care in that same period.

West Australian newspaper columnist Gemma Tognini wrote a heart wrenching piece in July 2019 about the tragic story of her father who had died while waiting almost two years for his home care package to be approved.

Gemma’s family received a letter confirming approval of her Dad’s allocated home-care support package the day after his funeral.

It’s a problem that doesn’t seem likely to be solved anytime soon.

There are currently some 110,000 people waiting up to 12 months or more for their home care packages to be approved, despite the Federal Government increasing the number of home care packages from 60,308 in 2012-13 to 124,032 in 2018-19.

As recently as November 2019, the Government announced it would make available an extra 10,000 home care packages, weighted largely for level 3 and 4 packages (high level care), to help alleviate the backlog.

The increase, which represented a total spend of $496 million, was labelled at the time as inadequate by National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke which said it was “only a quarter – at best, of what is needed to fix this tragic mess.”

Interim help was made available to 50,000 people on the waitlist, the Sunday Times reported, but at a lower level than what they were approved for, and leaving tens of thousands of families without any in-home care assistance while they waited.

With so many families facing such terrible emotional, physical and financial stress while they wait for badly needed support, alternative assistance provided by government regulated private sector providers could provide a viable solution.

Smooth Retirement CEO and Managing Director Scott Phillips said in some cases, equity in the family home could be used to bridge the gap and pay for in-home care and additional support while waiting for government funding packages – without the need to sell the home.

“Families who own their homes and have significant equity may be in a position to release a portion of that value now to alleviate some of the pressure they are under and provide much needed financial assistance and support.

“With the right planning and advice, this can be done in a measured and sensible way that does not impact on government entitlements and takes into account the family’s short and long-term needs including aged care and inheritance requirements.”

Mr Phillips stressed that independent advice and professional guidance was always recommended and in the case of most equity release providers, was compulsory.

“When used responsibly and appropriately it can make all the difference to a family in need but always needs to be delivered by regulated providers as part of a wider, long-term and properly considered strategy.”

Smooth Retirement Pty Ltd is an independent service providing expert guidance in equity release and retirement income planning Australia-wide. ABN: 46 619 010 445; AFSL 510015; Australian Credit Licence: 510015; smoothretirement.com.au; info@smoothretirement.com.au; 1300 510 015. Terms, conditions, fees and charges apply. 

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