Research from Macquarie University validates the link between in-home care and extending a person’s ability to remain in their home for longer.

While it seems obvious that the provision of in-home care will enable people to live at home for longer, there has been little research to prove this outcome and, perhaps more importantly, what type of help will have the greatest impact. In a study that is the first of its kind, researchers from Australia’s Macquarie University Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research and Australian Institute of Health Innovation collaborated to examine the association between in-home care services and entry into a permanent residential aged care facility.

What does the research show?

The results, published in The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine (JAMDA) found that:

Every hour of home care service received per week correlated with a six per cent lower risk of entry into residential care. The more hours of care services a person received, the lower the risk of residential care entry.

Importantly, the study also found that people who used a higher level of social support services (e.g. one-on-one companionship visits at home, assistance to attend community-based social events) in combination with domestic assistance and transport services stayed in their homes for longer.

“Having greater access to community care services may be an effective way of supporting older Australians to remain in their own homes for longer, which the majority wish to do,” says Dr Mikaela Jorgensen from the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at Macquarie University. “This study is the first in Australia to connect service use and meaningful outcomes in home and community care.”

For those in the early stages of considering in-home care, this research highlights the importance of accessing services sooner. It is also a perfect reminder that social support is just as valuable as other services like personal care. While our health is so important to our quality of life, so is our ability to connect and maintain relationships with others.

Staying at home

There’s no denying that most people would rather grow older living as independently as possible in their own home. A study commissioned by Apia found 97 per cent of Australians aged 50 or over have a strong desire to maintain their independence by ageing in place. It’s where they can stay connected to their friends and family and maintain a sense of control over their living situation.

Does this sound familiar?

“Older people almost universally say that they want to stay in their own homes, where it’s comfortable and familiar,” says Yvonne Wells, La Trobe University Professor of Aged Care Research. “Even quite small amounts of assistance can help people delay their entry to residential care.”

Understanding funding.

An important part of planning is to understand how you will fund your care in later life. Currently, around one million Australians receive aged care services. Around 80 per cent receive that care in their own home.

The type of care and help available will vary depending on funding arrangements. To pay for care people either privately fund services or access some form of government funding. Broadly speaking, there are two types of government funding available:

  • The Commonwealth Home Support Programme.
  • Home Care Packages.

How to access these types of funding and eligibility criteria are discussed in detail in the Finances and Funding article.

Signs it may be time to get some help in the home

  • The signs of needing help won’t necessarily be glaringly obvious, which is why people may not even realise it for themselves.
  • Here are a few things you can keep an eye out for:
  • Is the garden not looking as well kept as it used to be?
  • Is there food in the fridge that is well past its expiry date?
  • Is someone struggling to hear you, even in a fairly quiet place?
  • Have they missed a regular appointment recently, but can’t remember why?

Home Care Services

Whether through government funded, or private in-home care services, below are examples of some of the services and support people regularly use.

  • Social support and activities
  • Transportation and personal assistance
  • Grocery shopping and meal preparation
  • Domestic assistance and yard maintenance
  • Personal services including help with bathing, dressing and communication
  • Respite
  • Nursing, allied health and other clinical services.
  • Mobility and dexterity, for example, crutches, walking frames, pressure-relieving mattresses and assistance with use of these aids
  • Home modifications like hand-rails or ramps

A Home Care Package may also be used to support the use of:

  • Telehealth – video conferencing and digital technology (including remote monitoring) to increase access to timely and appropriate care.
  • Assistive technology – such as aids and equipment (particularly those that assist a person to perform daily living tasks), as well as devices that assist mobility, communication and personal safety.
  • Aids and equipment – some aids and equipment that are directly associated with your care requirements can be purchased using funds from your package budget.

Starting a conversation about in-home care

Reaching a point of realising some form of home care may be required can be hard for individuals and loved ones. If you’re feeling anxious about starting a conversation (with yourself or a loved one) about the need for inhome care, here are some starting questions to help you.

  • When you think about the next few years of your life, do you picture yourself living at home?
  • Have you looked at the different options and services for home care, and is there one that you think really suits you?
  • It seems like there are some things around the house that are getting a bit hard to juggle. Would you feel better if you had someone here to help out?