More respite funding needed to delay entry into aged care

New investment in overnight, small cottage style respite would support older people to stay at home longer and avoid premature entry into residential care, according to a submission to the Aged Care Financing Authority (ACFA) review, by leading aged care provider, HammondCare.

The submission to the review of respite care and funding arrangements says with the ageing population and consumers encouraged to stay at home for longer, there is a need for more cottage style respite, particularly for people living with dementia.

David Martin, General Manager HammondCare At Home, said recent research by HammondCare shows consumers who have used respite care on more than one occasion reported that the availability of cottage respite delayed entry into permanent residential aged care by an average of about a year.

“The research shows that carers overwhelmingly support cottage respite as opposed to a bed in residential care, and although costlier to provide, it has the potential to generate system savings by delaying permanent entry into residential care,” Mr Martin said.

He said recent research conducted by Carers Australia shows that residential respite services are not able to meet demand, with three quarters of respondents reporting a high or very high demand for emergency respite, while nearly nine in 10 reported a high or very high demand for planned respite.

The HammondCare submission says: “If the Commonwealth Government wants to support more older Australians to live at home for longer, it must act to improve access to residential respite. However, it must also consider ongoing investment in other forms of community based respite, such as cottage respite, that are currently supported with grants through the CHSP. It is only by providing a variety of respite options that carers of older Australians will truly be able to exercise choice and control.

HammondCare’s submission says there is significant potential to improve consumer outcomes by investing in the cottage respite program. “Like residential respite care, cottage respite supports carers by providing overnight care and support to older care recipients outside the person’s own home. There is also evidence to suggest that this form of respite is highly appropriate for older care recipients, particularly those living with dementia, and greatly appreciated by carers. An analysis shows that while cottage respite has a costlier operating model than residential respite care, respite cottages can lead to noticeable system-wide savings. Further investment in these services would offer thousands of consumers an alternative overnight respite option while easing the growing pressure on residential respite.”

HammondCare’s research found that, even when factoring in the costs of other home care services, the delayed permanent entry to residential care led to significant net savings for government.

In 2016-17, the AIHW reports that 3,559 distinct clients used cottage respite across Australia at a cost of $34 million.

The submission also states that the current low level residential respite subsidy and supplement are inadequate, making it particularly difficult for aged care homes to support these consumers. “As it stands, residential aged care services face a strong disincentive to accept respite consumers.”

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Copy of the ACFA submission is available on request.