Insights agency Faster Horses has today released its annual national research report into the aged care industry, revealing only one in four Australians have faith in our aged care system, and increasingly people are wanting to age in their own home.

The Inside Aged Care Report 2020 examines the evolution of perceptions from pre-Royal Commission in 2018, to during Royal Commission in 2019 and now into a COVID-19 period in 2020.

Now in its third year, the study measures how the general public and those experiencing aged care view trust, government funding levels, clarity, innovation, transparency and care levels within the industry.

Based on a robust sample of 2,072 people from across Australia, the data reveals that there remains a trust issue in the industry, with just 22% reporting a high degree of trust.

However, numbers are unchanged from 2019 and are higher among those interacting with the industry, with trust at 32% for those receiving some form of aged care service, and 33% of those with a relative or loved one receiving aged care services.

As seen in 2018 and 2019, the least positive cohort is aged 60-79 (only 15% have trust in the industry). The data shows elevated levels of concern and apprehension among this group at the thought of needing to access aged care.

However, these negative feelings subside once there is a connection with the industry, with feelings of relief and being cared for becoming more prevalent among those receiving care.

The data shows 60% of people surveyed believe there is inadequate funding for aged care, while there are upward trends in terms of perceptions of aged care organisations.

Almost half (44%) agree that organisations treat those in care with respect and consideration (up from 38% in 2019), and 43% say organisations show empathy towards those in their care (up from 38% in 2019).

There is also continued demand for ageing at home. The 2020 data shows a significant increase in the total proportion of those aged 50-69 considering engaging with in-home aged care services. The circumstances around the peak COVID-19 period may have helped drive this move, however, the trend had already begun and was clearly evident in the 2019 data.

This means that stakeholders across the system – government, industry and intermediaries – all need to consider funding and resource deployment, as in-home care takes a larger share of aged care service provision. Careful thought needs to be given to the consequences of this on people living on their own, in particular.

Faster Horses Managing Director Veronica Mayne said it was positive to see the industry had held its ground across this challenging time, but much change was still needed.

“The rise in in-home care demand means the industry needs to modernise, embracing technology that can assist in monitoring movement, while also maintaining privacy,” she said.

“It also needs to consider the mental health and wellbeing of people living on their own, and the potential issues that can arise from social isolation. New systems that connect people with each other need to be considered as part of in-home services.

“The Inside Aged Care Report taps into critical drivers and needs of consumers across these changing times and is therefore a very important document that can input into not only aged care providers, but also to federal and state governments and consumers and their families.

“Organisations can leverage the data to build their services, staff training programs, marketing position and promotional materials in a way that aligns to their strengths, and marketplace needs.”

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) CEO Sean Rooney said the latest report provided valuable pointers for aged care, governments and communities.

“This study will help the sector deliver better services and care to older Australians,” he said.

It underscores the need to get on with making the system better right now by addressing funding, transparency, workforce and community involvement issues, with the Aged Care Royal Commission’s final report due in February.

Our nation needs to transform the aged care system so the community has confidence that people will receive the care they need, and the workers and organisations who care for them are enabled to deliver the best care and services possible.

“While the quality of service for home care and retirement village clients is acknowledged, it is also positive to see perceptions of aged care organisations have improved over the past two years in terms of respect, consideration and empathy.

This report will be an invaluable addition to the planning toolkit for every aged care provider across the nation.

The full Inside Aged Care Report 2020 is now available, with a presentation of a selection of the key metrics being delivered at LASA’s virtual Ten Days of Congress on Friday 16 October at 1:30pm AEDT.