Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Nov-Dec 2013 Contents reason for the fall is unclear, the numbers
are significant and surprising.
She says it would be worth exploring
to what extent the funding model in aged
care mitigates against increasing the direct
employment of allied health professionals.
"It does seem to be that the focus in
funding is on nursing and personal care
assistants in residential aged care and that
allied health professionals and assistants
are seen as a beneficial 'extra'." However,
she says, more research would need to
confirm to what extent this is a problem.
A more profound issue, according to
King, is clarity around the role of allied
health professions in aged care and the
fact that they have not yet been able
to clearly articulate what they add to
the aged care sector, specifically to the
health and wellbeing of older people; to
the business case of facilities; and to the
policy direction of governments.
King says this is an important issue for
the allied health peak bodies if they are
to recognise aged care as a core sector of
employment for their members.
The sheer size and number of the allied
health professions also further complicates
the advocacy story. In addition, few of
the allied health professions actually have
'gerontology', 'social gerontology', 'aged
care' or 'ageing' as a speciality within their
field in order to promote the relevance
of their members' skills to the aged care
sector and governments.
"Aged care is going to need allied
health professionals, but it is a 'new' sector
for allied health and aged care has been
structured around a nurse/carer model in
which there is only a residual role for allied
health professionals," says King.
"However, there is a lot of potential
for this role to develop further and it is
important that allied health professional
bodies are advocating in this direction."
In fact, King predicts the big growth area
for allied health will be in the community
and in home care where allied health
professionals will have a central rather
than a residual role.
Rod Cooke, CEO of the Community and
Health Industry Skills Council, agrees that
the shift to home care will open up exciting
opportunities for allied health, and in
particular the allied health assistant role.
"The role of the allied health assistant
is important now and it is growing and
I think it will be much more important
in the future if we look at trends to
consumer directed care and the delivery
of care into the home," says Cooke.
In a consumer-driven environment
Cooke believes allied health assistants
will experience a market-led growth
as consumers will seek out cheaper
alternatives to deliver different parts of
the services they require.
Lin Oke says allied health professionals
have an important role to play in supporting
older people to stay active in the community
and to prevent avoidable admissions to
hospital or to residential aged care.
"We valued the Productivity
Commission's Caring for Older
Australians report that identified that
allied health professions are not being
utilised nearly well enough in the aged
care sector and as a consequence this can
place unnecessary pressure on the other
parts of the health system."
The Productivity Commission inquiry
noted that poor access to medical and
allied health services affects the capacity
of the aged care sector to deliver timely
and appropriate care and called for
formalised partnerships between industry
and universities to increase the exposure
and training of allied health professionals
in the sector.
The PC also said allied health services
should also be subject to charging
arrangements consistent with those in the
SPOTLIGHT ON SPEECH
One area of allied health that is
particularly underrepresented in aged
care is speech pathology.
Speech pathologists are experts in
communication and swallowing difficulties
but they can also help advance the design
Dental hygienist Jayne Braunsteiner
with Montefiore resident Cato Klein.
Hydrotherapy pool at Montefiore's
www.australianageingagenda.com.au | 47
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