Tens of thousands more older Australians will be able to stay in their home for longer under reforms that will entrench aged care as a fundamental entitlement and include an increase of nearly $270 million to dementia programs.
As exclusively reported in _The West Australian _ yesterday, the Gillard Government will means-test residential aged care but there will be no forced sales of family homes to pay exorbitant bonds, which can cost as much as $2.6 million.
Under reforms to be announced today by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for Ageing Mark Butler, those going into residential aged care would be offered the choice of paying a lump sum, periodic payment, or a combination of both. But to give people more protection, there will be a cooling-off period and costs will be capped.
The Government has decided against a Productivity Commission recommendation for reverse mortgages under which the Government would subsidise or fully cover care costs in exchange for equity in the family home.
The reforms will greatly increase the number of home care packages to allow tens of thousands of people to stay in their home while receiving care.
"This is a system that is showing many signs of stresses and strain," Ms Gillard said in Perth yesterday. "It's a system that has served Australia well but it's not meeting the needs now of older Australians to have the options and choices they want and it won't meet their needs into the future as our society ages."
Some of the costs of the aged care reforms will come from reducing the $2.3 billion subsidies paid to nursing home providers.
As part of a $268 million program to help dementia sufferers, a "dementia supplement" worth $164 million will be available for those on home-care packages or in residential care. GPs and nurses will get more support for dementia diagnosis, with a focus on people who may have younger onset dementia.
Under the changes, for example, an 84-year-old full pensioner with dementia, on a level B home-care package and whose care needs are covered by a $13,406 Government annual subsidy and his $1800 co-contribution, would receive an extra $1341 subsidy for his care.
"If you want a nursing home place, we will make it easier to get one," Ms Gillard will say today.
"If you want care in the home, we will make it easier to get that care. More people will get to keep their home - and more people will get to stay in their home."
'If you want care in the home, we will make it easier to get that care.'" *Julia Gillard * <div class="endnote">