© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
Happy New Year!
With the continuation of lockdowns in 2021, some of my reported care trends of this time last year gained further momentum in 2021. While be we adapted, fingers-crossed the term 'lockdown’ is well out of earshot in the years ahead.
Continued movement out of residential care
Families continued to move their older loved ones out of residential care, with 10 families calling on DR Care Solutions to assist. The reasons are twofold:
Fear of COVID-19 in residential environments; and
The difficulties around visiting loved ones and social isolation in such care.
With aged care residents now fully vaccinated, their risk of death has dropped from 33% (2020) to 14% (2021). It is still high given the general population’s risk of death is 0.4%. Facility safeguards remain in place with only fully vaccinated visitors accepted, rapid antigen testing of visitors required, and residents needing facility permission for social outings.
Managing the balance between safety and family visitation remains a hard balance for the facility managers and operators.
Increase in palliative care
Some DR Care Solutions' clients had no other choice but to transfer their loved one to residential care, invariably for palliative care or specialised dementia care. We experienced a sharp increase in demand for palliative care (80% of residential care requests), a reflection of the pace at which Australia’s population is ageing.
Transition to 'online'
The world’s transition to online environments saw us taking clients and their adult children/guardians on virtual tours of residential facilities. They were often four-way online discussions – the client in their home, the adult child in their home office, me in my home office, and the residential manager at the residential facility.
While the online environment prevents us from ascertaining the ‘vibe’ of the facility or confirm its cleanliness / smell, fortunately at DR Care Solutions we have already visited and completed our due diligence and checklists on many residential facilities around Australia.
Continued increase in in-home care
Australians wish to remain in their own homes for as long as possible and we witnessed around a 15% increase in requests for in-home care. Overall, around 70% of our service engagements are now focused on putting in place or increasing the amount of care and support in the home.
In-home care teams
What we did see this year was the emergence of set teams of carers visiting the home. With COVID-19 lurking in the community, clients requested defined teams with the same carers providing the care.
Anything became possible, despite restrictions
The closure of gyms and hydrotherapy pools saw the end of rehabilitative exercise regimes. This had devastating consequences for many clients who lost mobility and social interaction as a result. DR Care Solutions worked hard to bring together allied health teams of physiotherapists and exercise therapists to visit clients in their homes.
Social isolation saw many home care providers reinvigorate their home care offering. This was spurred on by overseas-based adult children concerned about the loneliness of their parents.
This saw us engage home care providers to help set up and teach clients how to grocery shop online and use online communication tools such as Zoom and Facetime. Care services extended to providing online companionship with carers diarising regular phone, Zoom or Facetime conversations with clients.
Less informal care
Unlike 2020, it was our experience that there was a lot less informal care provided by friends, neighbours and volunteers during the year. Perhaps they themselves were drained by lockdowns and restrictions. Increasingly, adult children unable to visit their loved ones due to the restrictions found themselves calling on DR Care Solutions for assistance and paying for in-home care services.
Putting off medical appointments
The most concerning aspect of COVID-19 was the tendency for older Australians to put off their medical appointments. In 2020 various health organisations reported around a 32% drop in health check-ups. From my experience the percentage was higher in the 65 year plus age group, and it increased in 2021.
It is critical for older Australians to keep up their regular medical appointments with their GPs, undertake those regular blood tests, keep up their cancer screening regimes, and maintain the monitoring of any chronic disease.
Too often we are introduced to new clients who failed to address red-flag health symptoms, such as a dramatic weight loss or sudden and acute pain or sensory loss, with dire consequences.
Remember, you can call on DR Care Solutions to organise carers who will transport and accompany your loved one to those routine medical appointments.
A big year for us
2021 proved to be our busiest year on record in terms of client engagement and demand for our services.
Continued and growing interest in care planning and the general topics of aged care and disability care saw me speak at multiple online forums, including those hosted by CPA Australia, the global consulting firm Mercer, the Hon Zali Steggal MP, and Probus groups.
Our thanks to our professional carers
Our work would not be possible without the care provided by the professional and quality carers that we engage through our DR Care Solutions Preferred Care Provider Network. I extend my thanks to them for their ongoing compassionate and professional care. May their example prompt others to take up such a rewarding career. On that note, we will continue to monitor the implementation of those Royal Commission recommendations that seek to ensure such a career is appropriately supported.
May this new year be a better one for us all.
To your ongoing good health.
 DR Care Solutions blog: 2020 Aged Care & Disability Care Trends
 ABC News: COVID aged care deaths down, but fully vaccinated residents still vulnerable
 Allied Health Professionals Australia: Australians are delaying healthcare appointments and tests during COVID-19