NURSING homes these days offer top-ups of standard services. Such top-ups vary across facilities and can be anything, such as toiletries, upgraded meal choices, massages and entertainment.
There is no restriction on what can be provided as an additional service except for restrictions arising as a result of consumer law and other, non-aged-care regulation.
User-pays applies, with fees and compound interest very commonly accrued against residents’ nursing home bonds.
The overall pool of money comprising refundable accommodation deposits stands at $27.5 billion.
The size of this money pool has providers slavering, because this money is like a magic pudding. It is continuously topped up by new nursing residents as others leave.
Additional services are now being marketed aggressively and in many cases signing up for an additional services package is a condition of entry into a nursing home as a resident.
Nursing homes are being turned into tourist traps: once you’re there, you are made to spend your money.
The regulation of additional services is inadequate for the protection of care recipients’ consumer rights.
What is worse, the Department of Health acquiesces in providers’ making the purchase of additional services mandatory for residents.
Common sense says that the purchase of additional services should be voluntary. These services are additional, not essential, so residents should have a choice.
Danger signals should be flashing in the Department of Health about the arrangement of charging additional services fees against bonds.
Also, it seems odd that $27.5 billion held in bonds is not used to assist in funding the delivery of essential care. Among a great humming and hawing about the scarcity of funds to improve aged care, the regulator and the Australian Government seem happy to allow this money to be frittered away on glasses of wine with dinner and on aromatherapy.
It is also a mystery why a glass of wine with dinner for those residents who want it is not part of essential service delivery.
Anyone looking to enter a nursing home should be aware that the additional services on offer will not be paid for through a Government subsidy.
It is you who will pay.