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APA calls for immediate funding to enable aged care access to physiotherapy

Physiotherapy in aged care
Photo: APA calls for immediate funding to enable aged care access to physiotherapy
The Royal Commission has recommended the urgent funding of physiotherapists, and other allied health practitioners, to increase the provision of these vital services to aged care residents.

Acceptance of the recommendations would immediately benefit the lives of older Australians, by addressing the health impacts of COVID-19 restrictions, according to the Australian Physiotherapy Association.

“These recommendations must be implemented quickly to end the suffering of older people in aged care homes and we will work with the Government immediately to make that happen,” said APA National President Phil Calvert.

The APA told the Royal Commission inquiry into the Impacts of COVID-19 on Aged Care that restrictions and confinement meant people living in aged care homes were not able to exercise or socialise with other residents, which led to devastating effects on their mental and physical health, resulting in falls and serious injury.
During the enquiry, APA Board director and gerontological physiotherapist Rik Dawson’s provided evidence that reduced activity and mobility caused older frail people to ‘deteriorate very quickly’, losing muscle strength, which would rapidly lead to a loss of balance and increased falls.

“Falls can be the beginning of decline and death for people in aged care,” Mr Dawson said.

“If regular physios can’t get access to aged care facilities, staff should enable residents to access appropriate technology to support physio telehealth consultations and exercise programs.

“Additional staff would be required to support this for all residents.”

Mr Dawson said in additional to formal physiotherapy, aged care facilities should enable residents to exercise in a safe and effective manner.

“Supervised walking programs are ideal, but there must be additional staffing to support residents doing indoor or outdoor walks.

“Socially distanced, appropriately supervised outdoor exercise classes should be made available, to enable residents to participate in structured strength/mobility exercise classes.”

Mr Calvert said the recommendation also signalled the deficiencies in current aged care funding that severely limits the type of treatment physiotherapists can provide to older people.

“We look forward to long-term funding reform that enables physiotherapists and allied health practitioners to deliver  preventative care and help older people to live their best lives for as long as possible,” he said.

The current funding model severely limits the type of treatment physiotherapy can provide and does not include evidence based strength and mobility programs to keep older people active.

Mr Dawson also told the inquiry that COVID-19-related restrictions have had an impact on physio’s ability to provide services, with reduced access experienced by some allied health professionals.

As a result, the Commission has recommended that all barriers to access to aged care facilities by allied health practitioners be removed.

The APA welcomes the establishment of National Advisory Body and Plan and will be seeking to represent physiotherapy as a member of the new body.

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.