The majority of Australians want to remain living in their own homes for as long as possible rather than having to enter an aged care facility should they ever need support or care, a new national survey conducted on behalf of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has revealed.
Roy Morgan surveyed 10,500 Australian adults aged 18 and over from October 2019 to January 2020 on their views on older Australians aged 70 and over, the state of the current aged care system and their wants should they require aged care themselves.
The results, presented in the Commission’s Research Paper 4 – Ageing and Aged Care Survey, confirm Australia’s aged care system needs major reform in order to meet community expectations, according to Commissioners Tony Pagone QC and Lynelle Briggs AO.
The research found most older Australians want to remain living in their own homes should they ever need support or care, with just 25% saying they would prefer to enter a nursing home.
All types of home support and care services were considered important by both younger and older people, with older Australians prioritising home cleaning, help with personal hygiene such as showering and toileting, and access to medical professionals such as GPs and dentists, and help with nursing care.
Younger people placed greater emphasis on medical services than older Australians and much less emphasis on home cleaning and maintenance.
The least important services across all ages included transport and meal preparation.
Adults of all ages had positive views towards people aged 70 and over, with 90% agreeing that older Australians add value to society for a range of reasons such as work, knowledge and experience, and their volunteering to families and communities.
Almost all agreed that society has an obligation to look after older people and care for them and nearly half believe it is the government’s responsibility to pay for the lower level “support services” needed by them to continue living independently in their own homes.
More than half believe the government should also be responsible for paying for higher-level “care” services needed by older people such as help with dressing, eating, going to the toilet or nursing care.
The report found the large majority of older people who are living independently enjoy happy, healthy and active lives.
However, a number of older people need support to continue living independently, such as help with shopping, cooking, cleaning, and attending medical appointments.
Findings show they tend to prefer to receive this support from their family and friends, however in the current aged care system most of this support is from paid help.
Paid help from aged care service providers tends to be preferred by people when they need higher-level assistance, such as help dressing, eating, going to the bathroom and nursing care. Most people think this type of assistance would be inappropriate and burdensome for family to give.
When it came to perceptions of the current aged care system, the report found 44% knew someone aged 70 or over receiving support or care in their own home, and 37% knew someone living in a nursing home.
Of those who knew someone living in residential aged care, just 32% contact weekly and 24% visit weekly.
Tellingly, the report found the community’s perception of life in aged care is very negative.
“They think the residents are often lonely, do not have control over their lives and are not happy, but have access to medical care and are safe in comfortable, well maintained accommodation. The community is quite divided about whether residents receive the help they need with daily activities, whether they are respected, and whether there are enough activities,” the report states.
About 84% of adults surveyed said they had visited an aged care facility at some point in their lives, with this cohort having slightly more positive perceptions than those who had never visited.
The report found Australians have a low level knowledge about how to access information about aged care services, with only 9% identifying My Aged Care (the Australian Government’s aged care phone line and website) as the starting point on their aged care journey.
Similarly, just 4% knew they could contact the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to report a problem with an aged care service.
The Commission says the Australian community’s lack of awareness about the aged care system explains why governments have neglected to fix major, longstanding problems.
In its interim report the Royal Commission showed there had been 20 major government Inquiries over the past two decades and many of the recommendations had been ignored.