The amount of money Australia needs to spend on the long term care of its ageing population is expected to at least double by 2050 and could even triple, according to a new report.
The demand for long term care workers as a share of the population is set to increase by 140% over the same period as is the burden on family members who act as caregivers.
The study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says that carers in Australia are 30% more likely to hold a temporary job and have nearly three years shorter working career than non-caregivers.
It also says though these people, often women, are at more risk of sinking into poverty, and the country should look at ways of providing good initiatives to attract and retain staff.
With rising future expenditure for long-term care, this though is unthinkable for governments to shoulder all cost linked to care for the frail, especially those in homes, it also says.
The authors say that experience in other OECD countries could help Australia. It points out that the New Zealand government providers interest free residential care loans to assist those ineligible to a residential care subsidy. Under the 2009 Irish Fair Deal Scheme, residents in an institution are required to contribute towards cost, based on their income and assets of the resident, but the private contribution can be deferred until after the death of the resident, providing flexibility about not having to sell the resident's assets during the lifetime.
In 2008, approximately 13.3% of the Australian population was over the age of 65 while 3.7% of the population was over the age of 80. Some 7.2% of the population over the age of 65 received long term care in institutions or medical settings with 8.6% of this population receiving care at home.
The federal government has primary responsibility in financing and designing long term care for those aged 65 or more while the states and territories exercise planning and service delivery oversight for those with disabilities and aged under 65 and contribute most of the funding under the National Disability Agreement.
The National Disability Agreement is an agreement between the Australian Government and each Australian State and Territory Government designed to improve and increase services for people with disability, their families and carers.
The Productivity Commission, the Australian Government's independent research and advisory body on a range of issues affecting the welfare of Australians, has been directed to inquire into disability service needs and provision, and during 2011, to suggest options for longer term reform. The final report is due to the government on 31 July 2011.
As part of the general endeavour to better integrate the provision of care for older Australians, each year Australia creates new aged care places for the growing aged population in accordance with demonstrated regional needs within overall provision ratio targets based on numbers of people aged 70 or over.
In general, the capital costs of aged care are met by care recipients through the fees and charges that they pay, on which service providers earn interest and from which they may make small monthly deductions. Commonwealth recurrent subsidies, such as accommodation supplements in residential care, assist care recipients who do not have sufficient means.
The majority of funding for providers of residential care or care packages comes through the basic federal government subsidies for individuals being cared for. The report also says that an ongoing programme of targeted capital assistance, in the form of annual capital grants, assists service providers unable to attract sufficient residents who can make accommodation payments.
It concludes that the federal government and state and territory governments have agreed to major reforms to the funding and operational roles and responsibilities of the sector and commenced work on the development of a national aged care system.