As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep across the globe, many countries have been forced to impose strict health and safety measures, making 2020 a tough year for any global citizen. However 2020 has been particularly hard for those in the aged care system. With older populations being more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 symptoms, whether you work with or receive care from aged care villages, home care or self-managed care packages, the challenge of preventing COVID-19 outbreaks in the elderly has been felt worldwide.

In Australia, Home Care Packages (HCP) are provided by the government to encourage people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. This is not only sometimes better for the individual but also reduces the burden on our aged care system, and during a pandemic, easing the stress on aged care villages has been a priority for the Australian Government. Traditional home care packages usually let the provider manage the day-to-day activities for consumers, however the more recent self-managed care packages are quite different and focus on empowering the consumer to decide where their care money is spent.

In October 2020, the government committed a budget of $1.6 billion for 23,000 home care packages and promised to further fund another 10,000 HCPs for the elderly with a budget of $850 million.

Over the past year, there has been an increase in self-managed home care packages for many Australians. According to the recent study by Dr. Sarah Russel from Research Matters, older Australians who are opting for self-managed Home Care Packages (HCPs) feel like they made a greater choice, with more control, at lower costs, and more consistency rather than the traditional care packages.

What is self-management care?

Self-management is one of the ways in which older people can actively manage their own Home Care Packages (HCPs). It has become an important concept in healthcare, particularly in aged care. The process of letting older people make more informed decisions around the services that they need and to be able to choose what in-home care looks like for them.

What are the benefits of self-managing home care packages?

One of the main advantages of self-managing HCPs is that they have control over how their funding is spent and are empowered to make their own purchasing decisions. With a self-managed care system clients have total financial transparency and can receive care in the comfort of their own home. This is a benefit not only for the client, but also for the aged care system.

As a manager of their own package, they can discuss with the provider when the services are needed and how much they cost. With this approach, self-managed care packages are cost-efficient because of the lower package management fees. This means more funds will be available to the support services.

Another benefit of self-managed care is that they have the ability to choose their own support workers and to be able to continue engaging with them for the long term. This gives a sense of consistency in terms of care and service provided to the elderly, as well as having a social interaction and connection with a provider who they like and trust.

How can they navigate through self-managing their home care? 

As a relatively new concept in the aged care industry, a client choosing to have a self-managed care package, will not be left to fend for themself. There are several regular contact providers that will make sure the client is receiving the correct care and services, and will help guide them in their care process.

The Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, is an initiative funded by the Australian Government and in collaboration with RMIT University created a toolkit guide for those wishing to manage their own Home Care Package,  which aligns with the new Aged Care Quality Standards for Australia.

Technology’s role in self-management in aged care 

Digital technology adoption within the aged care sector has been increasing gradually over the past few years, but there’s been a large increase since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Across Australia, aged care providers are trying out new technologies, specifically AI (Artificial Intelligence), machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to address the traditional client management system in place.

By using cloud-based technologies and building online platforms, the aged care sector has the potential to access more accurate data and up-to-date information about the consumers and service providers. These can improve efficiencies in the process of caring for the elderly and guiding them in their daily lives.

Through improving the use of the technology available, accurate information can be accessed anytime and anywhere. This will help connect the older Australians with thousands of support providers and the community members in their area, to guide them with their self-managed home care package.

And as the sector prepares for a life post-pandemic, the adoption of digital health care solutions and telehealth is expected to continue to rise. As people search for efficient, high-quality, and individualised care solutions, the aged care sector will no doubt see a rise in self-managed care participants.