A recent article in the Australian Ageing Agenda highlighted overseas models of rural and remote aged care concepts, which could be exemplary to remote areas of Australia.
In Canada and some European countries clusters of universally designed communities serviced by home care providers and supported by assistive technologies, such as Telehealth, could be a new model for aged services in rural and remote areas, says an executive who has explored international approaches.
Caroline Langston, executive director strategy and development at North Metropolitan Health Service in Perth, recently travelled to Canada, Denmark, Scotland and the Netherlands to see how they delivered aged and dementia care in rural areas.
Of particular interest was the growing use of technology to support older people to live in their rural communities, said Ms Langston said, who undertook the trip as part of a Churchill Fellowship.
“In rural areas where you have large distances between older people, care workers have to drive out to see people, which takes a lot of time. But if there are ways of delivering services remotely, such as through Telehealth or tele-monitoring, that means people can still get a level of service,” she told Australian Ageing Agenda.
Country Mile Home Care aims to travel the distance instead of using tele-monitoring, providing personalised service and peace of mind for relatives. While we agree that technology can help to monitor the physical health of people, it is still important and beneficial to have direct personal contact, one-on-one interaction and communication. There will also always be the need for hands-on, physical support for the elderly, palliative or people with disabilities.
Some countries have pioneered models of grouped age-friendly accommodation, in which communities were turning to cluster-style arrangements of housing, to effectively close the geographic gap between older people and services, and using universal design to ensure accommodation supported people as they aged.
“When they’re grouped in a cluster, community services can go in there quite quickly and easily, they’re not having to drive large distances to see clients.” This model of course only works if there is a community services available to service this type of accommodation.
In Western Australia, the Royalties for Regions program has helped funding pilot projects in some rural towns, to build suitable accommodation for seniors, enabling them to stay in their own communities rather than having to move to a nursing home in the closest regional centre. Again, this type of accommodation only makes sense if seniors can also access services to keep them in place. It seems that the larger aged care providers are shying away from providing services in the remote areas for financial reasons.
Country Mile Home Care is attempting to close this gap and provide personal, individualised services by accessing federal funding through consumer directed care packages and carer’s respite programs, and also collaborating with other not-for-profit organisations.
This type of housing model means private providers can come in as well, because now you have economies of scale. So even if there is no funding accessible, private providers can be competitive and in future will be able to offer affordable alternatives. That’s where some of the ‘choice’ around CDC will start to happen in rural areas!
“If we can group people together in small communities, build age-friendly housing, you will maintain those people in our communities much longer, rather than them having to move to aged care facilities prematurely, and often out of town,” said Ms Langston.