A significant shake-up of government funded stay-at-home care schemes for the elderly is set to hit thousands of pensioners and seniors across the country on July 1.
All 72,000 people receiving care under Home Care Packages (HCP) will be switched to a new model, Consumer Directed Care (CDC), in a dramatic shift that has divided recipients and peak bodies. Under CDC packages, the recipient will have much more choice about how their care is delivered.
They will be told how much their package is worth and they will have the ability to negotiate with their care provider about what kind of care they receive from the package.
Lois Lovedee (R) and her mother Reta are concerned the change to CDC will mean reduced care.
In Adelaide, 77-year-old Richard Hicks is already part of the change underway. His care provider has already started transitioning to CDC packages, and he could not be happier.
"It feels [like] a very personal involvement," Mr Hicks said.
Under his CDC package, Mr Hicks can decide how his care is delivered.
That means he can choose how much time a care worker spends working with him on exercise, or on walks in his favourite park.
Last year, he even "banked" hours, cutting back on care for several weeks so he would have enough hours left for a week of respite care.
That allowed his wife to take a break from her care role and head out of town.
He said he appreciated the opportunity to negotiate those arrangements with his care provider.
"We can raise issues, and discuss them and resolve them," he said.
Although peak bodies such as the Council on the Ageing and Carers Australia support the change to CDC, some of those now on HCP are worried they will lose out in the changeover.
Lois Lovedee said she was worried about the new program, after her provider told her that she and her 99-year-old mother Reta, whom she takes care of, would face sharp cuts under the CDC.
Under their current Home Care Package, care workers come three times a day to lift Reta out of bed and help move her into the bathroom, but Ms Lovedee said she has had "a lot of sleepless nights" over the new program.
"I always thought we were comfortable," she said.
"I never thought we'd be worrying about money to look after my mother in her own home."
'No-one on a HCP will be worse off'
The Minister responsible for Aged Care, Senator Mitch Fifield, says the Government is confident most recipients will welcome the shift to CDC.
"I think when the individual has the opportunity to say what they want, they get a better outcome," he said.
Senator Fifield said no-one currently on a HCP would be worse off.
"Where an individual says to a provider 'I just want to keep what I've got', then that's what will happen," he said.
Groups like the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA) said the shift to CDC had ignored one key issue — cross-subsidisation.
Currently, because care packages are combined into big "blocks" of recipients, some recipients with less intense packages essentially subsidise those who need more intensive in-home care.
"From the 1st of July the funding will go to the individual," CPSA's Charmaine Crowe said.
"What that means is those higher needs clients will have to reduce their services because the funding available is insufficient."
The result for Ms Lovedee and her mother is a drop from 19.5 care hours a week to 9.5 hours a week — a 10-hour-a-week reduction.
Their care provider has also told them the cost of paying to maintain the level of care they have now would be $1,500 per week — or $78,000 per year.
Ms Lovedee said it was more than they could afford.
"I suppose you start selling the furniture," she said.
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