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Research supports need for more home care packages

Shorter waiting times for home care packages is associated with increased life expectancy and older people’s ability to remain in their own homes, a recent study led by the Registry for Older South Australians (ROSA) at the South Australian Health and Medical Institute (SAHMRI) shows.

Shorter waiting times for home care packages is associated with increased life expectancy, a recent study shows. (Source: Shutterstock)
Shorter waiting times for home care packages is associated with increased life expectancy, a recent study shows. (Source: Shutterstock)

Lead author and Director of the Adelaide G-TRAC Centre within the University of Adelaide, Professor Renuka Visvanathan, says that although a casual relationship between prolonged waiting times and mortality has not been established, the evidence supports the need for more home care packages.

“Demand continues to exceed supply for home care packages because of Australia’s ageing population, but we now have evidence supporting the benefit of shorter waiting times,” Professor Visvanathan says.

The research used data from almost 180,000 home care package recipients Australia-wide between 2003 and 2013, before the introduction of the current centralised waiting list for home care packages.

“We looked at the time taken between each person being approved for a home care package, and when they began receiving those services,” Professor Visvanathan says. “We then looked at the health outcomes after they received their home care package.”

Researchers found that people who waited longer than six months were nearly 20 percent more likely to have died two years after receiving their home care package than those whose wait was a month or less.

The findings suggested that mortality increase could have been related to higher care requirements of patients who had difficulty accessing places, but it is also possible that earlier access to packages may have improved survival.

Older people waiting longer than six months were also found to be 10 percent more likely to be in permanent residential care after two years with their package.

“This is important because we know older Australians prefer living in their home,” Professor Visvanathan says.

The research follows the Government’s recently released Home Care Packages Data Report, which shows over 120,000 Australians are waiting for a home care package at their approved level, with wait times exceeding 12 months.

“As an immediate goal, we’d like to see wait times reduced to a maximum of six months,” Professor Visvanathan says.

ROSA Director Associate Professor Maria Inacio, thanked the many organisations that contributed to this specific research, including SAHMRI, the University of Adelaide, Resthaven Inc, Council on the Aging SA, and Federal and State Governments.

“Without government support to access and analyse population data, registries like ROSA couldn’t perform vital research like this,” Associate Professor Inacio says.

The research was published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging.

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