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Aged care delivered in a retirement village environment has a host of benefits, but one key benefit is one that you might not have thought of. Tracey Silvester explains.

There are a number of benefits to the health and well-being of older people who choose to make the move to retirement living once they have retired. Aside from the negative press retirement villages have received in the last year or so, resident surveys show that people living in these environments are generally happier and have a better quality of life. Typically, however, people who live in retirement villages that do not have an associated care service still need to move elsewhere when their care needs increase. This move can be distressing and traumatic for everyone involved, particularly because of the bad press that residential aged care services consistently receive (not necessarily fairly, but that is a whole other article). At Seasons we have tried to create an environment where our residents get the best of both worlds, the benefits of living in a retirement community surrounded by like-minded people (and your spouse if you still have one), coupled with the availability of a 24/7 onsite care service for those people that need it. We work very hard to keep the promise we make to our residents that they will only have to make one move.

Aside from only having to make one move, getting to stay with your spouse, having your pets move too and getting a social life like no other, there is one major benefit to living in an aged care community that is not quite so obvious. Say for example that you have some health issues that mean you require assistance with daily living or medications or to go shopping. When this happens, there are a couple of ways that the assistance you need can be funded and provided. The first option, which is not so palatable to most older people, is to move into a residential aged care facility – a move that for most people is an absolute last resort.  The second is to remain at home and receive services through a Home Care Package. Home Care Packages are funded by the Commonwealth Government as a part of the broader aged care program.

Changes to the Home Care Package program

You might recall that in February 2017, the Home Care Package program was given its biggest shake-up in a long time when these packages were allocated to consumers as part of a Consumer Directed Care (CDC) philosophy to put consumers firmly in charge of their care as they age. The implementation of CDC has had some teething problems, including issues with the technical system used to administer the program and most significantly the creation of a national queue for such services that sits at around 100,000 at the time of writing. If you are one of the 100,000 then this situation is less than ideal, with the government acknowledging that it had grossly underestimated the level of need in the community for such care. If however, you are one of the lucky people who have a home care package then you will be familiar with how they work.

The HCP program is typified by four levels of care package (1-4), with level 1 being the equivalent of basic care and level 4 intended to support people with more complex care needs. Since February 2017, there has been a lot of jockeying in the market with providers now having to demonstrate a fair degree of transparency to consumers regarding line items of expenditure from their HCPs. What has become obvious is that there are significant differences between providers in regard to what they charge for what can be best described as administrative overheads, costed to the package before the consumer receives any care.  The industry average for this overhead has been described as being around 45 per cent of the value of the package, which for a level 1 package at $8000 subsidy value, doesn’t leave a lot for care. In a market driven service sector, it stands to reason that those providers who are seen to be charging a reasonable amount for the overheads associated with an HCP will outperform those providers that charge exorbitant amounts in terms of client numbers.

Seasons’ care partner, Envigor Home Care, is one of the few providers charging an overhead that is fair and reasonable and provides value for money for consumers. At a flat rate of 10 per cent the value of the package, Envigor has seen nearly 300 people choose them as their HCP provider since February last year.  As a provider of 24/7 care to the residents of the Seasons communities, the move to a CDC model has seen the residents in receipt of an HCP who moved their package to Envigor receive significantly more care than they were receiving from their previous provider. This is the hidden benefit of living in an aged care community.

The benefit of Envigor care within Seasons communities

The following illustrates how a resident of Seasons who receives government subsidised care through an HCP with Envigor is better off overall. Assume the person is in receipt of a level 4 HCP, the value of which is $49,500 per year in government subsidy. There is also a basic daily fee set by the government and payable by all consumers regardless of their income but for the purposes of this exercise, we will just consider the value of the package. After the 10 per cent case management and administration fee ($4950), the consumer is left with $44 550 to spend on their care (as opposed to the $34 650 available for care if the consumer is charged 30% case management and administration from their package).

For people living in an environment like Seasons, the benefits don’t stop there. Most providers have a minimum visit length of half an hour (for some this is an hour) regardless of the length of service a consumer actually needs. This means that a person’s care may only take 15 minutes to complete (as occurs for a medication assistance visit) but the person’s package is charged the full 30 minutes. Many providers also charge the consumer a ‘trip charge’ or ‘travel fee’ of anything between $20 and $30 on average per visit just to get to the consumer’s front door. Over the course of a week receiving one visit per day, this can reduce the value of the package by $140 to $210 (or $7280 to $10 920 over a year), and in the process significantly reduces the amount of care the person receives through that package.

Related content: Why Seasons?

By contrast, Seasons residents in receipt of an HCP are not charged travel time to get staff to their front door AND they can have services provided to them in as little as 15-minute increments. This means that they can receive TWO visits from an Envigor carer as opposed to only ONE visit if they were using another provider and/or living in their own home in the community. Many residents of Seasons receive multiple visits per day fully funded by their HCP, simply because of the ability of staff to move from apartment to apartment quickly and easily and the ability to provide services in 15-minute increments. In addition, because the Envigor staff are on site, consumers can have their services provided at the time/s of the day that suits them. If they want to shower at 7 pm, then that is when the visit is scheduled. Unfortunately, few other providers offer appointment-based services, nor do their staff work after 6 pm in the evening, unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Benefits receiving Envigor Care

There is a lot to like about moving into an aged care community like Seasons. Aside from the obvious reasons like making new friendships and reducing the need for maintenance around the home, there are some subtle but important differences between what happens for people living in Seasons compared to living at home (or in residential aged care). The ability to provide highly personalised care services that represent value for money is one of these differences and represents the opportunity for older people to have true choice about where they live, how they will live and how they will be supported to live the age they are inside.

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Tracey Silvester
Tracey Silvester is Executive Manager of Envigor and has more than 25 years’ experience in health and aged care services. Tracey is committed to ensuring that our elders are able to exercise their right to choose how they live their lives regardless of their ability or function. Tracey is a Registered Nurse and has a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Health Management. She is also an Associate Fellow of the Australian College of Health Service Management and a surveyor with the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards.