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Australians prefer ageing at home with assistance - sector overhaul needed

Recent research from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has found that Australians of all ages would prefer to receive assistance at home so they can live independently for longer during their retirement years rather than enter an aged care facility.

Most Australians would prefer to live independently at home while receiving care instead of entering a residential aged care facility. [Source: iStock]
Most Australians would prefer to live independently at home while receiving care instead of entering a residential aged care facility. [Source: iStock]

Furthermore, the research highlights that the lack of community awareness around the aged care sector has resulted in the Government not fixing obvious problems in the industry.

Commissioners, Tony Pagone QC and Lynelle Briggs AO, say this research confirms that Australia needs to have major reform to the aged care sector to meet the wishes and expectations of the community.

"Australians want the Government and community to assist older people to live well in their own homes for as long as possible. The Royal Commission has been investigating how to achieve that," state the Commissioners.

This research includes a national survey of over 10,000 adults asking for their views on older age and the aged care sector. This research was undertaken by market research company, Roy Morgan from October 2019 to January 2020.

Another research company involved was Ipsos, who did a large study with 35 focus groups and 30 in-depth interviews, from July to September 2019.

These results were presented in Research Paper 4, What Australians think of Ageing and Aged Care, and Research Paper 5, They look after you, you look after the: Community attitudes to ageing and aged care.

The studies were positive in the sense that almost all surveyed participants said they value older people and want them to receive support and care when they need it.

Older participants said they enjoyed living independently and led happy, healthy, active lives. In most cases, and they were making lifestyle choices to keep themselves independent for as long as possible, which included exercise.

Research shows that numerous older people needed support to continue living independently through help with shopping, cooking, cleaning and attending medical appointments.

Older people prefer to receive help from people they know, however, aged care services are mostly provided through paid help.

Receiving support from family or friends is common among older people with non-English speaking backgrounds.

People who want to receive paid help from aged care providers tend to be individuals who have high care needs, like dressing, using the bathroom or nursing care, and don't want to ask their family for that type of personal assistance.

Out of the research, only 25 percent of older people preferred to live in a facility if they required care. 

However, there was a strong preference from people of all ages to remain in their home even if they required extra support or care.

For people who have experienced prejudice or trauma from institutions, they are less inclined to want to enter aged care facilities, and have more worry around entering a nursing home. This group includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people (LGBTI), homeless people, care leavers or parents who experienced forced adoption, young people with disabilities, or people with special health needs.

The survey also highlights that young people with disability living in residential aged care facilities are very critical of the care they receive.

Perception of aged care among adults are largely negative, with around 84 percent of adults saying they have visited a residential aged care facility.

They perceive the residents as lonely, having no control over their lives, and are not happy, but do have access to care and are safe in comfortable accommodation.

However, results were divided around whether the community believed residents received the help they required for daily activities, whether they were respected and if there were enough activities for residents.

The survey also showed a huge lack of understanding around many aspects of the aged care system among Australians.

Around nine percent of people knew about My Aged Care and only four percent knew about the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

It also showed that people had little knowledge around how the Government spends money on the aged care sector annually.

Research points to the lack of community awareness about the aged care system explaining why the Government has been negligent towards fixing major and obvious problems within the sector.

It also reiterated the 20 major Government inquiries over the past two decades have amounted to no changes in the sector with recommendations largely ignored.

To view other research papers from the Royal Commission, head to their website.

These research papers were prepared for the Royal Commission and the public. Any views expressed in the papers are not necessarily the views of the Commissioners.

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