Got questions about aged care in Australia? We’ve got the answers!
What options do I have for aged care?
The Australian aged care system offers a range of options to suit your individual preferences and care needs.
Ageing in place
If you’re in good health and are able to, many people choose to remain in their own homes as they grow older.
Retirement living complexes are for older people who don’t need a high level of care, and offer independence and flexibility in a community setting. These multi-unit, residential complexes offer a range of support, leisure and health services to those approaching retirement age and older, with assistance available if it becomes necessary.
Help in your home
If you’re not ready to leave you home but still need some support, you can access home care services, which provide support in your own home. Services might include personal care, home maintenance, domestic chores, cooking, nursing care and transport.
Short term/respite care
Residential respite care is available for older people if your carer is unable to care for you for some reason, or simply needs a break; or if your care needs are higher for a short period of time. You can also access short term care via the Commonwealth Home Support Programme.
Aged care homes
Aged care homes provide residential accommodation and health care for older people who are unable to remain living in their own homes any longer.
What is a home care package?
A home care package is a package of services (that might include nursing and support services, personal care, allied health and clinical services) that can be provided to you in your own home. This will allow you to remain in your own home for longer.
How do I access aged care services?
Start on the My Aged Care website, a hub of all aged care services and information, and the gateway for assessments of eligibility. Go to www.myagedcare.gov.au or call them on 1800 200 422.
What if I need help to access aged care services?
If you need more assistance or support, or help understanding the process, Advocacy Services can help you access government-funded aged care services and advise you on your rights and responsibilities when accessing aged care services. Call the National Aged Care Advocacy Line on 1800 700 600 for free, independent and confidential advocacy services.
Can anyone choose to go into an aged care home?
You can’t just choose to move into an aged care home – you must first be assessed as eligible for that type of care. You may be eligible if:
- You are an older person who is no longer able to live independently at home
- You are a younger person with a disability, dementia or other special care needs that cannot be met through other specialist services.
What is the application process?
The process will begin with an initial call to My Aged Care (1800 200 422), during which My Aged Care staff will question you about your current circumstances and needs in order to determine your eligibility for care in an aged care home. If your care needs show that you might be eligible, you will be referred for a free assessment. You will be assessed in your home by a member of your local Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) or the Aged Care Assessment Service (ACAS) if you live in Victoria.
After this assessment, your assessor will make a formal decision about your care needs and the level of care you require. If you are assesses as eligible for entry into an aged care facility, you will receive a letter of approval and a support plan from ACAT that outlines the care you have been approved to receive.
How will I be assessed?
Aged care assessment is provided by a team of geriatricians (specialist aged care doctors), community nurses, social workers, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. You will be assessed in your home by one of these specially trained assessors, or in hospital if you have been admitted. Your assessor will ask you questions about your current situation and discuss your care needs with you or your family members/carers. You should talk to your assessor honestly about your circumstances and any concerns you may have. You are welcome to have a family member, friend or carer with you for this assessment, if it helps you to feel more comfortable and to remember all the important points.
What if I don’t agree with my assessment?
If you do not agree with the assessment outcome contained in your letter, or have any concerns about the decision, your first step is to contact your ACAT service.
If you still do not agree with your assessment outcome after having discussed it with your ACAT assessor, you can write to the Secretary of the Department of Health asking for a free review of the decision and outlining why you think it should be changed, at the following address:
Department of Health
Attn: Aged Care Assessment Program
GPO Box 9848
Sydney NSW 2001
Keep in mind that you only have 28 days to write to the Secretary and appeal your decision after receiving your assessment outcome letter.
If you are still unsatisfied with the outcome of this review, your next step is to contact the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or 1800 228 333 (keep in mind there is a charge for this process). To find out more, go to their website at www.aat.gov.au or call the number above.
When do I need to apply for an aged care home?
Earlier than you think you need to! The process of application and assessment takes some time, so you’ll need to allow enough so that you don’t feel rushed or pressured. You can’t apply too early though, as you need to be assessed as not able to live independently in your home. Once you start to feel that you are having trouble living at home, however, get the assessment process started. Even if you are not assessed as being eligible for aged care, you might be eligible for help in the home.
How much does aged care cost?
That depends. If you are eligible, you are expected to contribute to the cost of your accommodation and care if you can afford to do so. Fees you may need to pay include:
- A basic, daily feed covering living costs such as power, meals and laundry.
- A means-tested care fee, if you have income and assets over a certain amount.
- Accommodation costs to cover your accommodation (although the Australian Government will pay these costs in full or part for some people).
- Fees for extra services, if you choose to access a higher standard of accommodation or additional services above your assessed care needs.
To get an estimate of your likely fees, call My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 or use the aged care homes Fee Estimator on the website at www.myagedcare.gov.au/fee-estimator/residential-care/form
How are my income and assets assessed?
You will need to undergo an income and assets assessment to determine your eligibility for government assistance. You won’t be eligible for government assistance unless you complete this assessment, and may have to pay the maximum means-tested care fee and an accommodation payment (up to their maximum published room price).
Once you have moved into your aged care home, you will receive a letter outlining the maximum fees you may be asked to pay, including the basic daily fee, the means-tested care fee and the accommodation contribution, if applicable.
What if I need aged care but can’t afford it?
Obviously, you will need to pay for every day that you spend in an aged care home, and you are expected to contribute to the cost of your accommodation and care if you can afford to do so. But keep in mind that you won’t be required to pay all these fees if you are not able to. If you don’t have income and assets over a certain amount, you won’t need to pay the means-tested care fee. And depending on your income and assets, the Australian Government may pay your accommodation costs in full or in part.
What this means is that you won’t be denied aged care services just because you can’t afford to pay for them. The Government aims to ensure all older people have fair access to aged care, and will provide financial hardship assistance where necessary.
Can I go on holiday from my aged care home?
Yes, you certainly can – although keep in mind that you will still have to pay your accommodation fees while you are away. In a financial year you can have up to 52 nights of social leave from your aged care home that you can use to go on holidays or visit family or friends. If you are away from your aged care home longer than 52 nights however, the Australian Government will stop paying subsidies and you may have to pay the difference.
Can you put someone in an aged care home without their consent?
The decision to move into aged care should never be taken lightly, and can be one of the most difficult decisions any family has to make. Often the decision is made out of necessity – but what happens when the person involved refuses to make the move, even when it’s in their best interests?
The short answer is, unless the person in question has lost capacity, you can’t put a person into aged care without their consent. If the person has an enduring Power of Attorney in place, then that person can make decisions in relation to their care – but you would need to have this in place well before the person loses capacity.
Are veterans eligible for aged care support?
Veterans will certainly receive some help from the Government. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) will pay the basic daily fee for eligible former Prisoners of War (POW) and Victoria Cross (VC) recipients. As well, eligible former POWs and VC recipients are exempt from paying the means-tested care fee.