THE crisis in Australia's besieged home care system is escalating as waiting lists increase and wait times blow out.
Aged care organisations have warned that older people are dying or are being forced into residential aged care as they wait for a package at their approved level.
At the end of March there were more than 129,000 people waiting for an home care package at the level they had been assessed as needing.
Most of these (75,739) had not been offered any home care package - even at lower level - although many were able to access some assistance through the entry level Commonwealth Home Support Program.
Some people on the waiting list (53,299) were offered a home care package below the level they have been assessed as needing. Of these 30,283 had taken up the lower package, 6,355 were still deciding and 16,661 had not taken up an offer for lesser support.
More than 13,000 people who were waiting for the highest level of care (level four) had not been offered any package.
Current wait times for an approved level 1 packages is three to six months, for the remaining packages it is 12 months or more. People assessed as needing a level 4 package can expect to wait 12 months before being offered any package even at a lower level.
Sean Rooney chief executive of Leading Aged Services Australia which represents many of the countries aged care service providers said, "While the Government has made a noteworthy commitment to release more home care packages, the number of packages being made available to older Australians is still inadequate.
"LASA has received anecdotal advice from home care providers showing that CHSP services funded to provide entry level care are now at capacity.
"More work needs to be done in respect to advancing the integration of the home care package program and CHSP.
"These figures show that an increase in higher level home care packages is needed to ensure the supply of home care packages keeps pace with demand.
Pat Sparrow chief executive for Aged Care Services Australia which represents not for profit providers said without more packages the trend would continue.
"Being on a home care waitlist is not just an inconvenience. If people are waiting for the care they need, it can have a lasting impact on a person's health. It can lead to increased pressure on already stretched hospitals or mean someone has to enter a residential care service.
"Each individual story of waiting too long, and suffering as a result, should be enough to spur action."
The report shows that there is now a waitlist of over 129,000 people, up by 1290 since the last report. This is clearly unacceptable.
"We need to bring down the wait time with more packages. We also need the entire community engaged in an honest conversation about how to address the challenges and opportunities posed by our ageing nation in the longer term."
Criticising the latest figures, shadow minister for ageing Julie Collins said: "Reforms to aged care were meant to give older Australians the choice to age at home, but these figures confirm the Liberals' policy chaos has failed older Australians. As the list grows longer and longer, fresh stories emerge daily of older Australians waiting for care.Older Australians are entering residential aged care or even emergency departments instead of receiving their approved home care package.
Many older Australians are waiting more than 12 months for the package they have been approved for and some are waiting more than two years."
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