The face of aged care in Australia is changing, and it really is about time.
In the last 20 years, the proportion of the population aged 65 years and over has undergone a marked increase by over 3%. By 2026, as further cohorts of baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) turn 65, this rate is expected to increase even more rapidly.
More astoundingly over these last two decades the number of people aged 85 years and over has increased by 141.2%, compared with a total population growth of just 32.4% over the same period of time (“ABS,” 2016).
Whilst it is fantastic people are living longer and have better access to quality health care, the dramatic increase in our older population means we need to change the way we are doing things.
Traditionally, aged care brings to mind an institutional setting, such as a nursing home. People are removed from their own home when they can no longer adequately care for themselves and moved into a facility. They are then often moved within the facility each time their care needs change.
In 2012 the government introduced another stepping stone in the form of home care packages, which provided access to entry level care, helping older Australians remain in their own homes whilst receiving help administering medication, or to fulfil daily household tasks (“Dep. Health,” 2017 Jan).
The problem with the current model of aged care provision has been that it is not generally consumer focused and not fiscally sustainable over a period where Australia will see a marked increase in demand for these services. Thus, since the introduction of home care, the government has been working towards implementing new legislative measures which will see the system become more sustainable, but also provide the flexibility and a level of care which consumers will not only expect, but also demand.
As of February 2017, Australia’s aged care funding system will become deregulated, operating under a user pays model that is driven by consumer choice. Under this new model home care packages will follow the consumer and providers will no longer apply for funding via government Age Care Approval Rounds, as they have done so in the past.
At large, the government’s intent is to create an aged care quality assurance framework that will increase the focus on quality outcomes for consumers. This framework will aim to have a single set of aged care standards; streamlined quality assessment processes and improved education with quality information to help consumers ascertain what type of care they need, long before they need it (“Dep. Health,” 2017 Oct).
Deregulation is aimed to give consumers greater choice and the freedom to transition from one provider to another if they wish to move locations or decide the provider no longer adequately meets their needs. This, combined with measures to ensure consumer protection, will also mean greater competition between providers resulting in higher facility standards, greater consumer focus and greater affordability for the consumer.
Additionally, with funding allocated to the consumer it will ensure a fairer and more flexible distribution of the home care packages based on individual needs regardless of gender, religion, location or socioeconomic position.
A consumer-focused aged care system will recognise the diversity of both consumers and service providers. It will provide consumers with more choice and the opportunity to better align with a service provider that can meet their needs as an individual. More transparent information about the quality of both residential and community aged care services will assist consumers to make better informed decisions about their care.
At the end of the day, it is a service industry. Bringing the customer to the fore front of our minds is central to SPH’s process when working with aged care providers on architectural and interiors projects. We believe there is a significant opportunity to create physical environments that differentiate providers and strengthen an organisations brand and reputation.
As designers we also recognise that we too are in the service industry.
- ABS. (2016, August 18) Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2015; Australian Bureau of Statistics
- Dep. Health. (2017, January 17) Home Care Packages Reform; Australian Government Department of Health
- Dep. Health. (2017, October 16) Why is Aged Care Changing; Australian Government Department of Health