As Australia's population ages, the concept of "ageing in place" has become increasingly important. For many older Australians, the preference to remain in their homes, rather than transitioning to residential care, is strong.

Home care services play a pivotal role in making this preference a reality, delaying or even preventing the need for residential aged care. Professor Yun-Hee Jeon from the University of Sydney offers valuable insights into why home care is often the preferred option and how it benefits both individuals and society.

The Desire for Home Care

Professor Jeon highlights several reasons why receiving care at home is a more desired outcome for most Australians. "People want to have a place they can call home," she explains. "As people get older, home becomes the main place where they spend most of their time. It gives them a sense of independence, security, safety, and privacy."

The autonomy associated with living at home is a significant aspect of what many consider a meaningful and good quality of life. "For most people, lt's hard to imagine living in a communal environment with people coming into your room throughout the day. At home, you have privacy and control" she adds. “For the older person receiving care at home, they are the host when others visit their home, even those who provide care”.

Numerous studies support this sentiment, showing that remaining at home can improve mental and emotional well-being by providing a familiar and comforting environment. Home care allows for the maintenance of personal routines and connections with the community, which are vital for overall health. 

How Home Care Services Delay Residential Care

Home care services are essential in supporting ageing in place by providing the necessary assistance to older individuals in their own homes.

These services range from medical care and personal assistance to help with daily activities such as cooking, cleaning, and transportation. By offering tailored support, home care services can address the specific needs of each individual, enabling them to continue living independently.

Professor Jeon emphasises the role of home care packages in delaying the need for residential aged care. "When people receive those care and support services, they're likely to stay in their own home," she notes. "appropriate home care services aim to help people stay home as long as possible, aligning with their desire to remain in a familiar and controlled environment."

Professor Jeon’s recent research supports this; timely home care services combined with clinical care when needed can significantly reduce the demand for residential aged care. By providing comprehensive and personalised care in a timely manner led by a registered nurse, these services help manage chronic health conditions and prevent the deterioration of health that often leads to residential care admission.

Benefits of Receiving Care at Home

The benefits of receiving care at home are numerous and impactful. As people age, they often face multiple chronic health conditions and a higher risk of dementia, all of which can significantly impact their daily lives. Home care services are designed to meet these varied needs, offering both medical and non-medical support.

"For example, if someone needs to go to the doctor's appointments but can't drive themselves, home care can provide assistance," Professor Jeon explains. "They may need help with walking to the doctor's office or managing domestic tasks like cleaning and gardening."

Additionally, home care services can offer clinical care, such as medication and other clinical treatments, ensuring that individuals receive ongoing medical support without needing to move to a care facility.

The ability to receive personalised care in the comfort of one's home not only enhances the individual's quality of life but also provides peace of mind for their families. Family members can be assured that their loved ones are receiving professional care while remaining in a familiar and comfortable environment.

Cost-Effectiveness and Systemic Benefits

In addition to personal preferences, the economic implications of home care versus residential care are significant. Home care is often more cost-effective, both for families and the healthcare system. Providing care at home can reduce the burden on residential care facilities and hospital systems, allowing for better allocation of resources.

A report by the Productivity Commission highlights that home care packages are a more economical option compared to residential aged care. By increasing access to home care, the healthcare system can better manage the growing demand for aged care services as Australia's population continues to age.

Challenges and Considerations

Despite the clear benefits, there are challenges to ensuring that home care services can effectively support ageing in place. Access to quality home care services can vary significantly based on geographic location, socioeconomic status, and availability of skilled caregivers. Continuous assessment and adaptation of care plans are also necessary to address the evolving needs of older individuals.

Ageing in place represents a fundamental shift in how society approaches the care of older individuals. By prioritising home care services, we can enhance the quality of life for many older Australians, providing them with the autonomy, security, and comfort they desire.

As Professor Jeon aptly puts it, "Most people want to stay home because that's where they feel they have a sense of control, independence and autonomy." 

With the right support systems, ageing in place can become a viable option for more Australians, delaying the need for residential aged care and fostering a more inclusive and compassionate approach to ageing.

If you, or someone you know would like some support in the home or local community. 

Speak to your local Just Better Care office about a range of support services.