Older Australians are expected to be better off under radical changes to the aged care system that take effect this year, according to a national survey of aged care service providers led by University of Adelaide researchers.
From 1 July, Australia's aged care system will officially introduce a "consumer directed care" model of service, meaning older people have greater choice in planning and receiving a wider range of services in their homes.
In a national survey of aged care providers, researchers found that despite the potential upheaval to their operations, most identified a range of benefits for consumers. The survey received more than 30 responses, including some from the biggest providers of aged care services in Australia, covering both metropolitan and rural areas.
"Most of the respondents acknowledged that the new model of care would have a positive impact on older people in the longer term," says project leader Professor Andrew Beer, Director of the University's Centre for Housing, Urban and Regional Planning (CHURP).
"Among the benefits identified are transparency, greater choice of and control over services, and more flexible services that can support and improve older people's lifestyles.
"It's anticipated that the greater level of choice and flexibility will lead to higher self-esteem and a feeling of independence for many ageing Australians, effectively helping older people to age gracefully in their own homes," Professor Beer says.
CHURP Research Fellow Dr Debbie Faulkner says many service providers have indicated they have made considerable progress towards the introduction of the new model by 1 July, and some have already begun offering these services.
"According to our results, staff of aged care services are well informed about the changes and are working to overcome the additional challenge of providing a range of services directly into the community," Dr Faulkner says.
"There will always be teething problems with a change of this magnitude, but there are opportunities for the aged care sector to benefit from this transition period. We should expect to see some fine tuning of the delivery of services over the coming months."
Professor Beer says: "We hope our research helps to raise awareness in the community of the potential for improved services, as well as highlighting to aged care providers that any challenges they face at present are not occurring in isolation. They have an opportunity to work in partnership for the benefit of the sector and the community."
This research has been led by CHURP at the University of Adelaide and has involved the expertise of Professor Justin Beilby of Torrens University Australia and Professor Jon Karnon from the University of Adelaide's School of Population Health. The project is funded by the Australian Research Council. Assistance for the study has been received from key aged care industry leaders and support services including ACH, Resthaven, Anglicare SA, Care Connect, Uniting Care Wesley Port Adelaide and Council on the Ageing.
Professor Andrew Beer
Director, Centre for Housing, Urban and Regional Planning
The University of Adelaide
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