• Jenni Perkins

Being in charge of your home care package

Many older Australians and their families are unaware of the level of choice and control they have when setting up their care plan under a government-subsidised Home Care Package.

Home care packages are delivered on a Consumer Directed Care basis, this means you should expect choice and control over what services you receive and where and when they are delivered.

This is a major change from being offered a set list of home care services at fixed times. Some service providers are clearly more comfortable than others in moving to the new model.

My mother lived at home on her own through the amazing support of her local home care agency which was proactive in its approach to delivering consumer directed care. We had maximum flexibility in the package of care she received.

It was simply a matter for me to email the coordinator a suggested support roster, which we were able to vary - often at short notice - when we needed to. We were able to review the budget together and look at how it could be utilized most effectively.

The detailed monthly budget statement itemising each hour of support meant we could keep an eye on if we were starting to go over budget, or if we could accumulate some savings to help provide for additional support when needed at another time, or to contribute towards the purchase of required equipment.

We were active participants in designing supports around my mother, and we had maximum choice and flexibility in ensuring the supports fitted with her needs.

Her support workers assisted with social support – but at the same time, they would help with the washing, prepare meals, do the cleaning – whatever it took to help her live at home.

The supports we designed enabled my mother to live at home with dignity on her own for nearly seven years, despite having significant short-term memory loss.

Contrast this with the experience of a friend’s mother whose home care provider clearly operated in the ‘old school’ way – the services she was offered were from a fixed menu; she had to choose either someone to do the cleaning or someone to provide social support (the same worker didn't do both!); she was advised that her support worker would come ‘sometime between 8 am to 12pm’; and the provider had not advised her that she had flexibility in how she might use her funding – for example, including the lease of a gopher in her package.

Not surprisingly, my friend's mother decided to change her provider - and under the new Consumer Directed Care approach she could!

Being an informed consumer, and being assertive, is not necessarily a typical characteristic of our senior cohort – in fact, many are likely to feel grateful for whatever they get, being too polite to complain, or ask for something else.

But it is important that people understand that they can have a say; they can have a choice about what services they receive and when they are delivered and they can design the services that best meets their needs.

It is not one size fits all! You can expect that your home care package is designed around your individual needs – rather than you having to fit in with a fixed menu of services.

Go to Live Well Longer - ageing at home free resource Getting the Most Out of Your Home Care Package

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