We often think that once a person has been assessed for a home care package and are in the National Prioritisation Queue (wait list) for a package that we’ve done our job in assisting them to access aged care services. Of course, you may also be providing some basic care support through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) while they are waiting, but you can’t do more than that, can you?
I believe that it is important to continue monitoring client needs. Rather than just passively waiting for the assignment of a package, you should be regularly reviewing the services being delivered and determining whether they are meeting the person’s needs. When you identify gaps, you may need to refer the person back to My Aged Care. But how can this help the person if they are already approved?
Each person who has been approved for a Home Care Package by the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) also receives an indicative ‘need’ rating, or priority; most people will be rated at ‘medium’ priority. They will be placed on the wait list according to this priority, and will be assigned a package once they reach the top of the queue. However, the queue is dynamic and people with higher or urgent needs will be prioritised to receive a package. This means they could be waiting for a package for anywhere between six months and two years, depending on the level of package sought.
This is where it is important for you, the service provider, to monitor client needs. If a person deteriorates rapidly, their home support changes and/or their supports under CHSP, or their existing package are no longer meeting their need, they should be referred back to My Aged Care for a further assessment. This is particularly important where the lack of support services results in danger to the person’s life and wellbeing. At this point they may be approved for a higher-level package and/or may move from ‘medium’ to ‘urgent’ priority.
The change in priority may mean the person is offered a package that meets their urgent needs at a lower level than their approved level. The person can accept or decline this ‘interim package’, and if they accept the package it should not affect their place in the queue – it’s merely to assist in supporting urgent needs. Once a package becomes available at the person’s assessed level they will be automatically assigned this higher package.
Opting out of the Queue
Of course, this throws up another dilemma. What if all the person’s needs are being met at the lower level and by assigning the higher package the person will end up with a large underspend in their budget? If this is the case, the person is able to contact My Aged Care and ‘opt out’ of the queue. Their status would change to ‘not actively seeking’ a package. This needs to occur before the higher-level package is assigned, as once assigned it cannot be declined in favour of the lower package level.
The person might need a higher-level package down the track, however the good thing about the National Prioritisation Queue is that it is based on time spent waiting as well as relative need. Should the person require a higher-level package in the future, they should contact My Aged Care and change their status to ‘actively seeking’. The date they were originally approved for a home care package at the relevant level will be recognised when being placed in the queue. This way they are not disadvantaged. In fact, I have seen a person receive a package in as little as one month from the date their status was changed.
So it is important for you, the service provider, to monitor the support needs of clients waiting for a Home Care Package.
- Are they receiving the support they require?
- Do you need to refer them back to My Aged Care for further assessment or a change of status?
- If the person is currently on an interim package are their needs being met and will moving up to a higher package result in large underspends – do they need to change their status to ‘not actively seeking’?