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2022: Our Year in Review

2022 was a big year that presented many changes and challenges for older people and the aged care sector.

This year was full of news that impacted and will continue to impact older Australians such as the implementation of new standards and reporting systems for aged care providers, changes to the bulk-billing system and eased COVID-19 restrictions.

We also voted in a new Federal Government that has made moves to get the industry up to standard in accordance with the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s final report of recommendations.

As the aged care sector progresses through historic reform, Talking Aged Care has wrapped up our most popular and important stories of 2022.

Living through inflation

This year saw huge spikes in the cost of goods and services and the cost of living skyrocketed proving a challenge for aged care workers and older people accessing the Age Pension.

New figures were released in July that found inflation in Australia rose to 6.1 percent in the June quarter.

Inflation resulted in the Maximum Permissible Interest Rate (MPIR) making the largest jump over a quarter since the Global Financial Crisis which affected the cost of residential aged care accommodation. 

An Anglicare Australia report also found that older Australians on the Age Pension could only afford 312 rentals –  just over 1 percent – available across Australia at the time.

These pressures saw older people looking to come out of retirement or go back to work to help support themselves and their families, but securing work proved difficult for them.

A survey by peak body National Seniors Australia found that older people returning to work were missing out on opportunities to secure a job due to ageism, strict Age Pension income thresholds and the limited availability of suitable jobs. 

Election and Budget

The Federal Government had a lot of expectations put on them to address cost of living pressures and implement policies to get aged care back up to scratch in line with the Royal Commission’s recommendations to reform the sector.

We started 2022 with a Liberal Federal Government who proposed a lacklustre 2022/23 Budget, particularly for aged care workers. 

By May, they were outvoted by the Labor Party and the new Labor Government’s Budget was announced in October – responsible for many historic changes for older people and those accessing aged care services.

In order to fix workforce shortages and break down some of the barriers older people face when trying to obtain employment, the new Government changed thresholds to the Age Pension.

Older people of Age Pension age and eligible veterans can now earn an additional $300 a fortnight from working without causing a reduction in their pension.

Cheaper medications, cheaper health costs and everyday concessions have also become available to more older people after the Government lowered the cost of drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and changed eligibility rules for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC).

COVID-19

While we are still experiencing new waves of COVID-19, Australia made moves this year to begin managing and living with the virus without restrictions.

2022 began with a “super spreader” Omicron variant that made pre-existing workforce and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages in aged care worse. 

As winter hit in July, case numbers rose again but the Government made it clear that they would not be putting in place any mandates to protect people from the virus. They confirmed that the onus was now on people to take care of their own health.

In October, people who tested positive to the virus no longer had to isolate as States and Territories began rolling back their restrictions, which caused alarm among aged care advocates

The Government said the decision to abolish isolation rules were not permanent and could be re-implemented in the event of a COVID-19 wave.

Australia is about to enter its first Christmas since the windback of COVID-19 restrictions.

Other changes in the aged care sector

Big changes occurred in the aged care sector over 2022, which were in line with the important recommendations from the Aged Care Royal Commission’s Final Report. 

The year began with peak bodies Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) and Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) merging into one new overarching peak body for the sector called Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA).

In June, The Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) found that the aged care workforce crisis had doubled over the last year, with the worker shortfall increasing from 17,000 to 35,000.

To combat this shortage and deal with the impacts of COVID, the Government changed policies to expand the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme (PALM) and extended the Australian Defence Force (ADF) assistance in aged care until September.

To equip residential aged care facilities for future waves, the Government also decided to extend support measures until the end of 2022. 

This would see PPE, Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing provided to residential aged care homes in an outbreak.

In order to further work towards an appropriate reform, The National Aged Care Mandatory Quality Indicator Program (QI Program) was reviewed and expanded after being flagged as an area of urgent attention.

Other legislation amendments were also announced to further push the sector into compliance. 

The Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill was introduced to Parliament which saw a number of changes come into effect in line with Royal Commission’s recommendations. 

The Bill saw:

The Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022 was also introduced to Parliament that detailed a set of reforms – some of which are still yet to come into play.

The Implementing Care Reform Bill featured:

  • A mandate for at least one Registered Nurse (RN) to be on-site and on duty at all times within residential aged care facilities from 1 July, 2023
  • A minimum amount of care minutes aged care residents must receive from various care staff from October 2023
  • An allowance for the Government to cap home care fees that providers charge their consumers from 1 January, 2023
  • Requirements for providers to be transparent and publish certain information – including financial spend on food, nursing and profits – around aged care services from 1 December, 2022

Technology

In September and October, the personal data of thousands of Australians was stolen from health insurance companies, Medibank Private and ahm, and a telephone provider, Optus, proving how important it is to remain safe online and protect your information.

A report published by ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) investigated the factors contributing to financial risks for older people and found that a combination of poor financial literacy, cognitive decline and high-stakes expenses, such as retirement living or aged care, can direct older people into making financial mistakes.

During this digital age, it’s hard to keep your information and money safe as an older person when new technology and new scams are being created every day, so we wrote an article about being wary of scams and sharing your personal information to help you stay safe online.

Top reader choices

The top stories for 2022 were a mixed bag due to the number of changes we saw in aged care and other areas around the country.

As the quality of food served in aged care came into question this year, TAC readers frequented our ‘Dignity in the dining room’ story from 2014 to learn how to make mealtimes an enjoyable experience – making it our most popular story for the year.

TAC readers still wanted to know if they are considered “old” or not, which saw our ‘what age is considered’ story remain at the top of the most read this year.

As our population continues to age, those preparing to access aged care services utilised a lot of our information content to help them on their journey. 

Our information articles ‘What costs are involved in nursing homes?’ and ‘What is an aged care assessment and how does it work’ were frequently clicked on by our readers in 2022. 

That sums up some of the biggest stories of the year for 2022! A big Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from the Talking Aged Care team.

What do you think were the biggest stories of 2022? Let us know in the comments below!

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