A new study has highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic and changing funding models have created challenges in access to centre-based aged care services, particularly for the most vulnerable.

Centre-based aged care is an important service that can improve the health and well-being of older people with dementia and their carers. The changes to aged care funding models and the COVID-19 pandemic have created challenges for how care services are delivered and how older people engage with their communities. Until now, little is known about how these challenges affect the accessibility and provision of centre-based aged care services.

Institute member Associate Professor Myra Hamilton lead the study to explore changes and impacts across centre-based aged care in the Sydney region. The changed aged care funding context was found to create barriers to accessing centre-based aged care, especially carers and older people with high care needs – with participants attributing this partly to the complex “My Aged Care” portal and partly to the re-classification of centre-based care as a service under the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP).

“Centre-based aged care services were previously publicly subsidised through one program for all older people and a separate program for carers of older people. The introduction of CHSP has limited the support carers can receive as it is based on the older person they are caring for. It has also focused the service on people with low care needs – thereby shifting the services away from people with higher care needs including those living with dementia” says Associate Professor Hamilton.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic forced all but one centre to close during lockdowns and resume only limited services once they reopened, the study also found that the pandemic created opportunities for new models of service practice to meet the needs of older people and their carers.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected how some centre-based aged care services were accessed and delivered, creative models of innovative and virtual services were developed and have enhanced some centres’ capacity to provide more personalised care.”

Read the full publication here.