GOOD MOVE: An estimated one million Australians will benefit from the Federal Government's home care reforms.
GOOD MOVE: An estimated one million Australians will benefit from the Federal Government's home care reforms. Contributed

OPINION: Home care reforms a big help to elderly

AN estimated one million Australians will benefit from the Federal Government's home care reforms which came into effect on February 28.

From this date, Home Care Packages will be assigned directly to older Australians who need them and not to service providers.

Individual and their families can decide which care provider they use to get services such as help with showering, food preparation, shopping and other daily living tasks.

It's an exciting time for aged care in Australia. People can shop around. The competition will improve service delivery for clients. They will have more choice and freedom.

Older people can choose when and how their care dollars are spent. For instance, if they want care in the evenings or on weekends, they can use their funds for this.

However, I have found many elderly people do not understand the changes and what choices they have.

It can be confusing. There's lots of information to take in.

I advise people to check their monthly statements to find out what home care funds they have been assigned by the government and how these dollars are being used.

After February 28, someone who is already on a Home Care Package is free to move their funding to another agency if they are looking for a better service and there is a process for this.

They are required to give notice to their current care provider in writing. The notice period is usually two weeks but they can check this on the service agreement form they signed with the provider.

After they give notice, that provider will exit them from their service after the agreed period. Then they can start with a new service provider the following day.

Before giving notice, I suggest elderly people and their families shop around and see which provider can best meet their needs.

I have found that elderly people are most concerned about management fees and phone support. Management fees across the industry vary from 15% to 40%. High fees mean less money is available for the clients' care.

Some providers use a centralised phone answering service where you are speaking to someone in another city who does not know your situation. Other providers answer calls locally and offer a 24-hour phone line.

If a family is happy with their current service, there is no need to make a change. It's just important to remember that the option is there, now and into the future.

If someone has unspent funds with one provider, those funds move with them to their new service provider. This improved flexibility will give more freedom and control to clients.

It also means if they move to another town, their funds can move with them.

Another key point is that many providers charge exit fees and the amounts can vary. This information should be on the service agreement that was signed earlier and these fees are not meant to be excessive.

Kendall Morton is the director of Home Care Assistance, Sunshine Coast.

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