You choose your doctor, plumber and mechanic. You learn to trust them and if you can’t, you choose again.
Until a few years ago, you did not choose your home care provider. Instead, you were matched with a provider who had the level of package for which you were eligible.
This changed on February 27, 2017, when in a major reform, the federal government flipped the home care model on its head. Home care packages were assigned directly to the eligible person.
We now have a system that is driven by consumer needs and choices. You can shop around, decide who will be your home care provider and take your package to another service if needs are not met.
This is fine if you have good advocacy skills or a family member to help you. For some folks though, it’s not easy. They stay with their provider even if they are unhappy.
Here’s an update on what you should be asking a potential home care provider.
What are your management fees?
All providers charge a management fee for administering your home care package. Fees can be up to 40 per cent. Higher fees will cut into hours of service. This could be the difference between having a physiotherapy session each week or missing out on shopping help.
What other fees are there?
You may be charged travel costs for your carer. All home care providers must meet award conditions and pay staff accordingly. Travel costs are legitimate. Check your monthly statement so you know what’s happening.
Some providers charge for processing invoices. If you have a handyman in, a provider may add up to 20 per cent when they take the funds from your package to pay the tradesman. This adds up. Ask for an indicative budget.
Do you have an exit fee?
Despite the gains of the last few years, some providers still charge exit fees. These can be as high as $2000. While there are some administrative processes when you leave a provider, these can be covered in the normal management fees.
Excessive exit fees can act as a disincentive to changing. Ask if you will be charged an exit fee to move into residential care. The usual notice period for leaving a provider is two to four weeks. This will be on your service agreement.
Remember, you sign a service agreement, not a contract. You are free to move your package whenever you want.
When can I have help?
Discuss your routines with your proposed provider and see what schedule you can agree on. Providers will do their best to meet your preferences. However some flexibility is needed as there is a critical shortage of care workers nationwide.
Do I get a monthly statement?
This should come in a timely manner to show what has been spent, what fees were charged and what funds are still available. The home care subsidy accrues daily. Unspent funds carry over to the next month. Mistakes can happen so it’s important to check regularly.
How many different carers will come through my home?
Fewer carers is preferable. You are more likely to have regular carers if your weekly schedule is consistent. Carers want consistency too.
What is the phone support like?
Do some research: Call your proposed provider during office hours, in the evenings and on the weekend. Do they answer the phone? If not, that’s a warning bell.
Is this provider a local business?
Using a local service means you are dealing with fewer people. They get to know you. Local providers are part of your community. With a state-wide or national provider, you may find more of your funds are eaten up in administration charges.
The purpose of home care packages is to support older Australians with significant health and mobility issues to live at home for longer. This is a worthy goal, but it is costly.
These taxpayer funds need to be used in a fair and accountable manner to ensure home care services are sustainable and available for future generations.
Kendall Morton is Director of Home Care Assistance Sunshine Coast to Wide Bay. Call 5491 6888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org