Increased carer supports, more transparency, ACAT teams expanded: what recommendations could we see out of the Royal Commission’s latest research?

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Following the release of the Royal Commission’s two research papers on international aged care systems and innovative models yesterday, I spoke to co-author Dr Suzanne Dyer (pictured below), a senior research fellow at the Flinders University College of Medicine and Public Health Rehabilitation, Aged and Extended Care group. 

Here’s some further thoughts on what we could see in the pages of the Final Report:

More focus on home and community care – and financial support for carers:

Dr Dyer emphasised that other countries have much higher levels of support for informal carers.

“In some countries such as Germany and The Netherlands, cash benefits are provided that can be used to pay family carers. Many countries including Germany and Japan also have generous leave provisions, with paid carers leave available.”

I predict the Royal Commission will recommend that Australia ups its own carer provisions.

More transparency i.e. publicly available information on staffing levels:

The paper concluded that Australia is on the lower end of staffing in its aged care homes compared to the US, British Colombia in Canada and Germany.

“This information implies that aged care workers in the Australian system are stretched too thin and the system is under resourced,” Dr dyer said.

Expect more benchmarking of staffing levels as the Royal Commission looks to increase public accountability.

A bigger role for ACAT teams:

The research also highlights the importance of aged care assessments in both accessing supports and care and as an opportunity for early intervention.

“In countries such as Denmark they have embedded an active aging approach into their long-term care services so when an older person is assessed for home help, rehabilitation occurs to maximise function before the home help is assigned,” Dr Dyer said.

“Whilst how a similar approach could be achieved in Australia was out of the scope of our report, it is clear that the ACAT represents an opportunity for clinicians to make referrals for rehabilitation and allied health professionals for follow-up.” 

Will this research see the Royal Commission recommend that ACATs remain in the state hospital system then?

If it does, it could put the Commissioners at odds with the Government’s decision to potentially move ACATs to outside operators.

The Department of Health finally responded to our request for further information about the decision. A spokesperson confirmed they will push ahead with plans for assessments to fall under one contract – whether this is through the States and Territories or other organisations.

Either way, ACATs will play an even more critical role.

A return to local governments being the gateway to aged care services:

The paper noted other countries still organise and finance aged care at the local level – unlike Australia where aged care now falls under the Federal Government’s remit.

“In Australia, we can imagine that it may be difficult to develop policies and packages nationally in Canberra that need to be appropriate both for inner Sydney and remote Australian communities,” Dr Dyer said.

“By having more local control, there is likely to be more room for greater flexibility in the ways care is provided and this may better support diverse populations and more social innovation.”

Could we go back to having local councils being the first point of call for older people to access services?

Anything seems possible.

You can download the papers here.

What are your thoughts on the papers?