Aged Care

Optimising home care support for older people with healthcare needs


In the ongoing discussion about aged care reform, a recent study led by the University of Sydney sheds light on strategies for optimising home care support for older individuals with healthcare needs.

Published in the journal Age and Ageing, the research compared the outcomes and cost implications of two Australian Government-funded programs: Home Care Packages (HCPs) and Veterans’ Affairs Community Nursing (VCN).

Contrary to popular belief, the study suggests that existing programs may hold the key to cost-effective solutions for keeping older adults living safely and independently in their communities. The analysis, which involved over 40,000 participants, revealed striking differences in outcomes between the two programs.

One notable finding was the disparity in the rate of aged care home admissions: within five years of service commencement, 58 per cent of HCP clients had been admitted to aged care homes, compared to only 27 per cent of VCN clients. This significant difference translated into substantial cost savings for government providers, estimated at over $1 billion over five years.

So, what sets the VCN program apart? According to lead author Professor Yun-Hee Jeon, two key factors stand out: the short time to referral and the central role of registered nurses in service delivery.

The VCN program, predominantly led by registered nurses, emphasises a personalised care approach based on comprehensive assessments and short wait times for referrals. This proactive model not only addresses immediate needs but also prevents or delays aged care home admissions, resulting in considerable cost savings.

The VCN program also offers periodic access to services as needed, fostering a mindset of flexibility and responsiveness among participants. In contrast, HCP clients often retain services regardless of changing needs, driven by lengthy wait times for service re-access. Professor Jeon underscores the importance of this flexibility in enabling individuals to remain in their homes longer, with access to care tailored to evolving needs.

Looking ahead, as the aged care landscape continues to evolve, the study emphasises the critical role of skilled professionals, particularly registered nurses and allied health professionals, in optimising outcomes for older individuals.

While the paper suggests further economic analysis is needed, Professor Jeon said the research team have confidence in the findings due to the large sample size of this first-of-its-kind study and analyses that considered the cost of the VCN program, the length of stay in residential care and the distribution of HCP types.

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.

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