What is a home care package?
Many older people wish to remain living independently in their own homes for as long as possible. This is called “ageing in place” and can be great for your wellbeing and mental health, as well as enabling you to stay involved in your community and regular activities. Home care packages are designed to give older people the extra support they need to live in their own homes for longer.
There are 4 different levels of home care packages you can receive:
- Level 1 – Basic care needs
- Level 2 – Low-level care needs
- Level 3 – Intermediate care needs
- Level 4 – High-level care needs
The funding for packages increases from Level 1 through to Level 4, as the need for higher levels of support and intensity of services is required. An increase of package level will only be assigned after assessment, and recommendation by a qualified aged care assessor.
How do I find out if I’m eligible for a home care package?
If you need support to continue living independently in your own home, there’s a good chance you may be eligible for a home care package. To find out, you’ll need to contact My Aged Care, or by a phone call to 1800 200 422, who will arrange for an in-person assessment to be carried out in your home by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT or ACAS). There is no cost to be assessed. Your eligibility will be determined based on this assessment, and if you are eligible, you’ll be notified which level of home care package best suits your needs.
There are no minimum age requirements to receive a home care package, nor are there any residency restrictions.
What services come with my home care package?
Home care packages can provide a vast array of services, and you’ll be able to choose the services you need based on your individual situation. Everyone’s home care package looks different. However, each package will come with:
- A care plan;
- Your personal contribution required, as assessed by the government / Department of Human Services;
- A home care budget outlining how your home care package will fund the services you have chosen to receive; and
- A monthly statement outlining how your home care package is being spent.
Depending on your level of package, you can choose from services such as:
- Personal care
- Allied health and therapy services
- Meal preparation and diet
- Specialised support
- Domestic assistance
- Home maintenance
- Home modifications
- Social support
- Mobility aids
- Goods, equipment and assistive technology
Is there anything I can’t use my package for?
Yes, there are a number of services and goods that you can’t spend your home care package funds on, including:
- Home mortgage payments and rent
- Payment of home care fees
- Holiday travel and accommodation
- The cost of entertainment or gambling activities
- Home modifications or assets not related to your care needs
- Payment for items and services covered under the Medicare Benefits Schedule or the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
- Payment of fees for other types of care partially or fully funded by the government
Will a home care package cost me anything?
Home care packages aren’t free – but they are subsidised by the government. The higher the level of package you receive, the more funding the government pays on your behalf.
The funding in your package is made up of:
- The government subsidy
- Basic daily fees, payable by those receiving a package
- Income-tested care fees, payable by those whose income is above a particular amount
- Fees for additional care and services, to provide extra services not covered by your package
The level of funding from the government you’ll receive in your package will depend on whether or not you pay the basic daily fee, and what level of package you’re receiving.
Is everything decided for me?
No. While your eligibility and level of package will be determined by external agencies, there are many decisions you can stay in complete control of, and you can allocate the funding as you see fit. Your decisions will include:
- The choice of service provider
- The choice of the types of services you receive
- The choice of who delivers your home care services
- The choices of where your services are provided
- The choice of when your services are provided
Once you know exactly what type of package you’ll receive, the decisions are then up to you. No one will need to make them for you – you’ll be able to tailor your services to suit your needs, wishes, lifestyle and schedule. You are in control of the way your home care package is delivered.
To find out more about your choices regarding aged care, click here.
How do I choose a provider?
Your home care package will be assigned to you – not a provider, meaning you’re free to choose the provider that best meets your needs. As with most things, it pays to consider your options and not just go with the easiest or more convenient option. Home care services are provided by a variety of organisations around Australia (such as Finley Regional Care – find out more here). You will need to find out what services a provider offers, how soon they can offer these services and the amount of fees they will charge. Fees and services vary widely between providers, so it’s best to check before making a decision. It’s then up to you to arrange your care.
Will I receive my home care package straight away?
Unfortunately, you can’t expect to receive home care services immediately upon application. There is generally a waiting period to be assessed, which can range anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on your location and individual needs.
Once you’ve been assessed and approved for a package, you’ll be placed in the national prioritisation queue. People with higher or more urgent needs are naturally prioritised to receive services sooner. Once you’re here, the average wait time for your package can be months or even years for the highest levels of support. During this time, you may receive an “interim package”, which is a lower level package than your assessed need. For example, if you were assessed as needing a Level 3 package, you might be able to receive a Level 1 package – and at least some services – while you wait for your Level 3 package. You may also be able to receive support from the Commonwealth Home Support Program while you wait. This program allows you to access entry-level support services to help you live safely at home – you can find out more about this program here.
What this means is that it’s best to apply as early as possible for a home care package. Don’t wait until you have urgent needs but apply for an assessment as soon as you begin to think you might need some support. Use the time after application to research potential home care providers so that you’re ready to go with your decisions as soon as your package becomes available.
For more on why you should start aged care planning early, read this helpful article.