Tuesday, April 23, 2024

New report highlights opportunities for improved regional aged care

A new economic study has showcased the opportunities for better aged-care outcomes in Australia’s rural and remote towns if they are underpinned by strategic and innovative investment in healthy ageing.

The study from Evaluate, commissioned by Southern Cross Care Queensland (SCCQ), analysed the benefits of SCCQ’s plans for aged-care service delivery in the Western Downs Region town of Chinchilla.

The Chinchilla proposal is underpinned by a plan to invest $31 million to create 81 new aged-care places and eight affordable houses, with construction expected to be completed this year.

The study found that the Chinchilla model could lead to savings of nearly $63,000 a year for every person who remains in home care thanks to the creation of a health and wellbeing hub.

The proposed care model, if replicated across the country, could also help reduce the nation’s $21 billion annual bill for avoidable hospitalisations from nursing homes, while also relieving the burden on informal carers (family members) who lose on average $392,500 in lifetime earnings and $175,500 in lost superannuation, SCCQ said in a statement today.

However, the study also warned of the need to act quickly as changing demographics in Australia’s rural and remote towns add strain to an aged-care system that is already under pressure.

The challenges of providing quality aged care in Australia’s rural and remote regions grows for various reasons including the ageing population, a declining workforce, inadequate transport, lack of housing options for new workers and uncertainty over training and immigration.

“This is compounded by issues of rurality, where there is a lower than average supply of services, and low population density,” the report stated. “The latter means supply of care in the home is inevitably less efficient than in urban Australia and strongly supports the case for community-centred services.”

The Chinchilla proposal “will support the centralisation of home/community care which in turn increases the efficiency of workforce by reducing ‘windscreen time’ and freeing staff for direct care,” the report stated. “With the workforce shortage in Chinchilla, this should be a priority.”

The report featured forecasts for the population in the Chinchilla catchment area over the next decade. While the workforce is expected to decline, the numbers of residents aged over 65 will increase by 22% and those aged over 75 will increase by 35%.

Evaluate’s research found that preventative ageing and healthy ageing initiatives can play invaluable roles in reducing the strain on aged-care and public health services in rural and regional areas.

“One of the principal benefits sought through healthy ageing, and the support that the wellbeing hub is intended to provide, is that people are able to age for longer in their own homes,” the report stated.

SCCQ CEO, Jason Eldering said the Chinchilla study underlined the challenges facing the delivery of quality aged-care and home care in rural and remote parts but also the opportunities that strategic investment can create.

“Southern Cross Care Queensland is committed to providing aged-care solutions where we can in this state because our mission is to provide care for those who need it,” Mr Eldering said.

“This report shows that significant public and private benefits can emerge from strategic approaches to aged-care investment that will better equip towns such as Chinchilla for the coming years.

“This approach does not just support older people, but actually brings the community together through the wellbeing hub and tackles those big and growing issues like isolation and loneliness.

“And there is clearly value in preventative ageing and healthy ageing initiatives that can take the strain off services and also decrease reliance on the public health system.

“There are real opportunities out there, but they will require collaboration and innovation from all stakeholders, including government, and a spirit of goodwill to ensure that we’re keeping the needs of our older Australians as our priority.”

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