Hundreds of elderly people in the Riverina are waiting up to a year or more for federal government services designed keep them living in their own homes.
Health Department figures show that the number of people waiting for home care in the Riverina and Murray regions, at 1450 during December, far outweighs the 649 people who left the program.
Wagga-based home care provider Right at Home Southern NSW director Geoff Cook said waiting lists were an issue for both home and residential aged care in the Riverina.
"There is a very large waiting list, particularly with the home care packages which can be in excess of 12 months," he said.
"The way the system works, when someone leaves home care after they go into an aged care home or they pass away, their place becomes available.
"That place is then allocated to the next person in the queue, but that doesn't mean if it's a Riverina person who leaves the system it will be a Riverina person will get that place."
Mr Cook said the home care system was entirely funded by the federal government and demand for places was increasing.
"The population's mindset is changing and people don't want to go into a nursing home; they want to stay at home for as long as possible or until they pass away," Mr Cook said.
"Many of our clients would prefer to die in their own home."
According to the Department of Health, a home care package "is a coordinated package of care and services to help you to live independently in your own home for as long as you can".
There are four levels to home care, each providing more involved services including personal care, support services and nursing, allied health and clinical services.
"The intent is to keep them independent so they can stay at home," Mr Cook said.
"It's about doing something with a client based on their needs as well as their wants and preferences."
John Hunter, a NSW/ACT Australian Aged Pensions Group coordinator from Junee, said the federal government had funded 14,000 new home-care places over four years when there were already 22,000 people on the waiting list.
Mr Hunter said elderly residents in smaller towns across the Riverina were in greater need of home care in order to stay independent.
"Some people have got to travel hundreds of kilometres for a five-minute session with a medical practitioner," he said.
"I visited the same bone clinic as a family from Hay, who had to come all the way in to Wagga and there was only four hours where the clinic was open."
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