About Home Care
Why you need allied health care to keep you healthy at home
Allied health care professionals are an essential part of the home care team. They help older people physically, socially and emotionally. However, a 2018–19 survey found that only 2% of Home Care Package funding was spent on allied health. The Royal Commission into Aged Care pointed out that many people on Home Care Packages aren’t spending their funds on allied health. Why is that, and how can more people access allied health services?
Caitlin Wright for CareCompare
What is allied health care?
According to Allied Health Professionals Australia, the term ‘allied health’ is new. There isn’t a universally accepted definition, however there is agreement on some basic principles:
- They are health care professionals who aren’t in the medical, dental or nursing professions.
- They’re university educated and specialise in preventing, diagnosing and treating a range of conditions.
Some examples include dietitians, audiologists, exercise physiologists, mental health workers, chiropractors, occupational therapists, art therapists, physiotherapists, podiatrists, psychologists, speech pathologists and optometrists.
Why is allied health home care important?
Allied health was one area that kept popping up in the recent Royal Commission into Aged Care. The commissioners recommended that more allied health should be available for people in home care and residential aged care.
In their final report, they wrote ‘Throughout our inquiry, many witnesses described the crucial role of allied health in maintaining mobility and functionality and providing restorative care in response to acute events.’
But not enough people on Home Care Packages are accessing these funds.
“We are concerned that the type of service provided may be influenced by funding arrangements,” the commissioners wrote.
We are concerned that the type of service provided may be influenced by funding arrangements
Aged Care Royal Comission
What did the Royal Commission recommend?
One of the key Royal Commission recommendations was that care at home should include allied health. They wrote:
“Reablement and rehabilitation need to be a central focus of aged care. We recommend that care at home should include the allied health care that an older person needs to restore their physical and mental health to the highest level possible—and to maintain it at that level for as long as possible—to maximise their independence and autonomy.”
They recommended that it be the Home Care Provider’s responsibility to make sure the older person is receiving these allied health care services and to monitor the nature and intensity of the care to meet their needs.
How can allied health be used in home care?
Many people use allied health to fix existing issues, but they can also help prevent these problems from occurring in the first place.
Melbourne GP Dr Angie Taggart often refers her older patients to occupational therapists so they can check the home situation.
“They help set up their homes to make them more liveable and help them manage with ramps or check their rugs so they’re not trip hazards,” she said.
Social workers are another great resource to use.
“Social workers could come in and see how their arrangements are working and see what they’d benefit from,” Angie advised.
In order to keep you or your loved one at home, it’s important you can move around easily and have enough strength and mobility to prevent falls.
One way to increase your strength is to get some help from a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist.
Daylesford physiotherapist Andrew Gallagher said he often sees patients who need some extra help to get around at home.
“The patient will come in and it’ll be obvious they’re struggling with their walking, very unsteady on their feet and struggling to get out of the chair. I’ll do an assessment of their balance and work out what they need,” he said.
Often the patient will be reluctant to use aids like walking sticks or frames because they see them as a sign of decline.
“The reality is, these aids will maintain their independence and keep them at home,” he said.
There are group wellness or training programs in some allied health care settings which have age-appropriate mobility, movement and falls prevention classes.
“Group work ticks all the boxes as it provides physical training and the social aspect too. People who are socially isolated tend to move less because they sit around,” Andrew said.
How do you access allied home health care services?
If you or your loved one want to use an allied health service, first you need to check what allocation you have in your package. Some home care providers employ allied health professionals directly, so see if that’s an option for you.
If they contract them, make sure you find out who you’re seeing so you know they’re the right fit. They may even do home visits, which is helpful if leaving the home is an issue.
If you have someone in mind, talk to your Home Care Package provider and tell them you want it added to your package. You have the freedom to make your choices. If you believe allied health will help you remain independent at home, you have a right to use your funding.
You can compare Home Care Package providers in your area on CareCompare.
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