A national study by LASA highlights the extensive work of home care providers in increasing support and combating COVID-19 distress among their clients, even as some postponed services.

The survey shows that almost 90 per cent of providers have increased regular telephone contacts, 84 per cent have implemented special grocery shopping, 75 per cent have put in place video monitoring and social support, and 41 per cent are working digitally to connect friends and family.

Sixty-four providers who care for more than 90,000 older Australians were surveyed, covering the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), Home Care Packages (HCP), private full-fee home care and Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) providers.

“It shows how care services have worked tirelessly to minimise the impact of coronavirus on the mental and physical wellbeing of their home-based clients,” said LASA CEO Sean Rooney.

“Providers have told how they are constantly checking in and monitoring people, including those who have decided to cancel services, to help reduce the trauma and make sure they are okay.

“Clients with pre-existing respiratory conditions are a top priority. The longer the isolation and media coverage of COVID-19 continues, the more their clients’ anxiety levels have increased.

“There have also been calls for additional direct payments to providers, to assist them to support their clients in need, with some providers saying exponential rises in the cost of personal protective equipment have not been recognised by the Government.”

The survey found 40 per cent of home care providers said COVID-19 infection fears affected their clients’ wellbeing concerns ‘a great deal’ or ‘a lot’, while 42 per cent said isolation affected the wellbeing of clients ‘a great deal’ or ‘a lot’.

In response, providers have increased their provision of essential services and support with 54 per cent increasing social support, 49 per cent increasing meal services, 48 per cent increasing individual respite and 34 increasing transport.

Despite this, more than a third of all providers reported a reduction in new enquiries, while many reported the cancellation of services among their clients.

Survey providers have reported up to 30 per cent of clients had cancelled services due to concerns over COVID-19.

“The survey highlights the critical work of providers in communicating with clients and staff and the importance of client education, staff training and reassurances about infection control plans in retaining the delivery of essential services,” Mr Rooney said.

“Consequently, all providers expect cancellations to continue unchanged or to decrease somewhat over the next month as a result of these efforts.

“Some home care providers have reported that more availability of personal protective equipment would have helped lift clients’ confidence in continuing to receive essential services.

“To counter this, LASA has worked closely with the Department of Health and private suppliers for months, trying to ensure adequate PPE is available to all aged care services.”

The upcoming winter influenza season is also likely to add complications over PPE, with 85 per cent of providers surveyed predicting one-quarter of clients will have flu-like symptoms in May.

“The survey reveals clients’ concerns and how home care providers have worked to maintain vital connections with vulnerable older people,” said Mr Rooney.

“Home care clients have been involved in innovation and communication to help prevent social isolation, loneliness and promote wellbeing.”

In collaboration with Dr Norman Swan, LASA has also produced a series of short videos that include practical information and reassurance for home care recipients and their families, so they can continue receiving care with confidence. The videos are available here

The full LASA Home Care Operations Survey can be found here.

Contact: Nick Way 0419 835 449 nickw@lasa.asn.au