• Jenni Perkins

Designing your own home care package

When I first started out as a social worker in the 1980’s, home care services were primarily meals on wheels, gardening and home help. Typically, these would be provided by the local council, and you could count on one hand the number of organisations delivering home care.

Fast forward to 2019, home care is now a major growth industry - and still growing, with the number of providers approved to deliver government subsidised home care packages almost doubling over the last three years. Further, a focus on ‘consumer-directed care’ means that you are no longer constrained by a traditional fixed menu of services – you can choose ‘a la carte’ and design your own package of care!

In designing your own care package it is helpful to think about what is important to you:

- what are you finding difficult

- what is making you feel unsafe

- what worries you (or what are others worried about?)

- what would help you to feel happy and safe at home.

It is important to be realistic about ‘needs’ as opposed to ‘wants’. For most of us, resources are scarce and so we want to think about what will make the most difference. What is that fine line between feeling ok at home and not ok?

It can mean some careful thinking about how to balance ‘a dignity of risk’ with being safe and secure – and it can be sometimes challenging getting everyone on the same page with what this balance should be.

Designing a package that suits you does not have to be menu-driven – you can look at ‘made to order’ to suit your particular needs. This can mean thinking ‘outside the box’.

For example, instead of delivered meals, it might be having someone to come once a week to cook your favourite recipes for you in bulk to put in your freezer.

Instead of going to the local day care, it might be someone to take you to your local bridge club, down to the library, or to visit an old friend – or to bring the friend to visit you.

Don’t underestimate the value of social support. My mother’s first home care provider suggested she join the local day centre – however it really wasn’t my mother’s scene. When we changed providers, mum’s new carer started taking her down to the shops for a coffee – over five years, this turned into a regular gathering, with my mother holding court with local shopkeepers and towns folk. The social benefits were immense for my mother – and so much more stimulating and engaging for her than the daycentre as originally proposed.

It might be helpful to explore the raft of technology and equipment solutions now available to help maintain independence – from adjustable beds, to emergency call systems, smart phone technology, alarms and reminders, environmental sensors, gps locaters and grab rails. These may be purchased privately, or could be provided as a part of your government subsidised home care package.

Remember that you can tailor-make your own care package with the supports that best suit you to help you to live independently, safely and well at home.

Whether you are purchasing your own supports, or accessing a government-subsidised home care package, you’re in charge.

For more helpful information on accessing home care and staying at home as you age, go to Live Well Longer - ageing at home.