The very people who need aged care services are struggling to use a government system that is based on a website and call centre, a royal commission has heard.
Senior counsel assisting the commission Dr Timothy McEvoy QC has suggested changes are needed to My Aged Care, the main entry point to Australia's aged care system.
"The very people who most need to obtain access to aged care services in the home are confronted by aspects of the My Aged Care channels which inhibit their effective engagement with the system," Dr McEvoy said.
He said the generation most in need of aged care services was not generally adept at using computers and many people found using call centres challenging, let alone those with hearing impairments.
"It is not respectful to expect the people who most need to use My Aged Care to deal through these channels," Dr McEvoy said.
"Over time, as more computer-adept generations move into the cohort requiring aged care services, web-based channels may well become the more appropriate option.
"For the present, something else needs to be done."
During a week-long hearing in Adelaide focused on home care that wrapped up on Friday, the royal commission heard about the difficulties older people had trying to navigate the My Aged Care website or contact the call centre.
But Fiona Buffinton, who heads up the health department's In Home Aged Care division, did not accept My Aged Care was failing older Australians and was not fit for purpose.
She said improvements were being made to the website.
The federal government has also funded a trial program to test different types of services and activities to help people navigate the aged care system.
Dr McEvoy said suggested improvements to My Aged Care include adding individual case managers, providing face-to-face assistance and making improvements to the website and call centre.
The three contact centres receive 1.4 million calls a year.
Dr McEvoy said future hearings of the royal commission will examine the sustainability of the aged care system and the financial implications of changes to it.
The next public hearing will be held in Sydney in May and will focus on residential care, in particular the needs of people living with dementia.
Australian Associated Press