Choice and flexibility are the main reasons Lesley Forster chooses to self-manage her home care package.
‘It’s incredibly hard to find the right provider, especially when you have complex needs,’ she says.
‘And when you live in the country, like I do, you need to have discretionary spending over certain things.’
Lesley, who is a member of the Older Persons Advocacy Network’s (OPAN) National Older Persons Reference Group, lives in rural WA.
A visit to a specialist can use up seven hours of her Level 4 package.
‘Doctor’s appointments are a big thing for me because they cost a lot to get to. I need somebody to drive me. And I need them to stay with me. You can sit and wait for a long time, especially in a public hospital.’
Lesley says switching from a conventional service provider to one that allows her to self-manage her package ‘changed her world’.
It’s about choice and control
‘Basically, I find my own workers – either through an online platform [which might charge a fee] or by advertising on my local Facebook page and employing that person direct.’
Together, Lesley and the support worker negotiate a job description and an hourly rate. Lesley’s service provider is charged with a duty of care, so he is responsible for verifying her support worker’s insurance details, police check, COVID vaccination certificate and ABN.
‘It’s a little bit condescending, really,’ she says. ‘It gives the government the accountability they need, although there is no reason we can’t manage our own funds in the same way as NDIS recipients have full control.’
Lesley chose her current self-management provider because, although his fees are higher than some of the larger organisations, he offers a personal, bespoke service.
She acknowledges that some older people, who primarily require help with personal care and cleaning, could be adequately served by a more cookie cutter approach, which has built-in cost efficiencies.
‘But if you don’t want someone at 6 o’clock in the morning to give you a shower and you want it at nine, that’s too bad.
‘It just isn’t meant to be like that.’
Building a community of care
For Lesley, a self-managed package means she not only has control over who comes into her home, but also when they come and what they do for her.
And when she needs to buy an item such as an accessible armchair, she can choose her own supplier.
But the 1400-strong Facebook group Lesley co-manages has alerted her to some to the traps and pitfalls to watch out for when signing up for a self-managed plan.
Some service providers only allow the older person to employ that organisation’s workers. Others have hidden fees.
‘There is so much difference across all the providers, which is what is great about having this group because we can talk to each other,’ says Lesley.
‘We’ve become very knowledgeable in the process.’
This story was originally published in The Senior.
Lesley will be on the panel for OPAN’s webinar ‘Self-managing your aged care packages’ on Tuesday July 18. Register now.
If you need help with your home care and aged care costs, call OPAN on 1800 700 600.