The government has announced a $537 million package for aged care in response to the damning interim findings of the royal commission.
The interim report targeted three areas as major concerns – the shortage of home care packages, the excessive use of chemical restraints and the need to get young disabled people out of aged care.
“I want to assure all Australians that we will deal with these issues as you would if you were standing in my shoes today,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a news conference.
“I know quite precisely the sort of things that you are thinking about at the moment when it comes to the treatment of your loved ones in aged care. My family is no different than yours in that respect.”
The funding is over the forward estimates but the government is not giving the year by year breakdown until next month’s budget update.
Most of the money - $496.3 million – will go to providing an extra 10,000 home care packages, after the commission said many people were dying while waiting for them.
The home care packages will be weighted towards those with high care needs. The rollout will start from Dec. 1.
The government said in its statement that it had more than doubled the number of home care packages available to 150,412 this financial year.
Of the new 10,000, 5500 are in the 150,412 figure while the rest will be rolled out in the 2020-21 year.
There will also be $25.5 million for better medication management and $10 million for dementia training and support, both aimed at reducing the use of chemical restraints on aged care residents.
From Jan. 1, there will be stronger safeguards and restrictions on the prescribing of “repeats” of the drug risperidone, which is used for restraint. Doctors will have to get additional approval for it to be prescribed beyond 12 weeks.
There will be more education on the appropriate uses of anti-psychotics and benzodiazepines in residential aged care settings, and letters will be sent to high-prescribing doctors.
Some of the funding for medication management will support pharmacists to make sure medication reviews happen more often.
Regulations are to be altered to follow the royal commission’s direction that chemical restraints must only be a last resort.
Lastly, there are new targets for getting younger people with disabilities out of aged care, with $4.7 million allocated towards this.
The new targets are:
no one under 65 entering residential aged care by 2022
no one under 45 living in residential aged care by 2022
no one under 65 living in residential aged care by 2025.
The government will work with industry representatives to identify accommodations for people with disabilities and develop a database of existing and new housing options.
The government is also committing to providing simpler aged care assessments by creating a single assessment workforce and network and establishing a single system for home care.
The royal commission’s final report is due in a year’s time. Morrison has indicated this package is a first step. There will be further responses in the budget and after the royal commission’s final report.
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra