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LASA survey find home care providers boosting supports during COVID-19 crisis

A national study from aged care industry peak body, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), found that most of their member home care providers have increased their social supports and activities to keep their residents engaged over the difficult coronavirus period and related restrictions.

The survey unveiled that even though some clients had postponed their services, most providers were trying their best to alleviate the distress some clients have been experiencing. [Source: iStock]

Nearly 90 percent of providers increased regular telephone contacts, 84 percent implemented special grocery shopping, 75 percent put in place video monitoring and social support, and 41 percent worked digitally to connect friends and family.

The survey unveiled that even though some clients had postponed their services, most providers were trying their best to alleviate the distress some clients have been experiencing.

Sixty-four providers were surveyed, who care for more than 90,000 older Australians between them, cover the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP), Home Care Packages (HCP), private full-fee home care services, and Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) providers.

LASA represents over a third of home care providers in Australia, which is over 300 companies that provides some form of in home care supports.

Chief Executive Officer of LASA, Sean Rooney, says the survey shows how hard care services worked to minimise the impact of the coronavirus on the mental and physical wellbeing of their home-based clients.

"Providers have told how they are constantly checking in and monitoring people, including those who have decided to cancel services, to help reduce the trauma and make sure they are okay," says Mr Rooney.

"Clients with pre-existing respiratory conditions are a top priority. The longer the isolation and media coverage of COVID-19 continues, the more their clients’ anxiety levels have increased.

"There have also been calls for additional direct payments to providers, to assist them to support their clients in need, with some providers saying exponential rises in the cost of personal protective equipment have not been recognised by the Government."

Forty percent of home care providers said that COVID-19 fears affected their clients' wellbeing 'a great deal' or 'a lot', while 42 percent said isolation affected the wellbeing of clients 'a great deal' or 'a lot'.

In response to the pandemic, home care providers increased social support by 54 percent, 49 percent increased meal services, 48 percent increased individual respite and 33 per cent increased transport.

Even with all of the extra supports in place, over a third of all providers reported a reduction in new enquiries and many experienced the cancellation of services by their clients.

Surveyed providers have reported up to 30 per cent of clients had cancelled services due to concerns over COVID-19.

"The survey highlights the critical work of providers in communicating with clients and staff and the importance of client education, staff training and reassurances about infection control plans in retaining the delivery of essential services," explains Mr Rooney.

"Consequently, all providers expect cancellations to continue unchanged or to decrease somewhat over the next month as a result of these efforts.

"Some home care providers have reported that more availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) would have helped lift clients’ confidence in continuing to receive essential services.

"To counter this, LASA has worked closely with the Department of Health and private suppliers for months, trying to ensure adequate PPE is available to all aged care services."

The possibility of a winter influenza season will likely add further complications around PPE. Already 85 percent of surveyed providers are predicting one-quarter of clients will have developed flu-like symptoms in May.

"The survey reveals clients’ concerns and how home care providers have worked to maintain vital connections with vulnerable older people," says Mr Rooney.

"Home care clients have been involved in innovation and communication to help prevent social isolation, loneliness and promote wellbeing."

To read the full LASA survey results, head to the LASA website

For more information about the coronavirus, visit the Aged Care Guide COVID-19 update page.

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