If you’re an older Australian who’s finding it hard to manage on your own, there are different ways to get the care you need.
While many older Australians prefer to stay in their own home for as long as possible, they may need extra help as they become less mobile or face health issues. That’s where home care comes in.
Home care packages are designed for people who can manage some of their daily needs, but who need support to manage the others. They’re a popular option among older Aussies, with around 22% of over 65s accessing some form of support or care at home(1).
To work out whether you need basic, low-level, intermediate or high-level care, you’ll need to be assessed by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). Your home care package will then entitle you to a range of services, in return for a basic daily fee.
Depending on your needs, these services might include:
- meal preparation
- providing transport for shopping or doctor’s visits
- help with showering and personal care
- household modifications
- nursing care or physiotherapy, and
- social support.
How much does it cost?
If you’re eligible for a home care package, the cost of your services will be partially subsidised by the federal government (current subsidies range from $8,785.55 – $50,990.50 per year, depending on the level of care you have been assessed as needing).
But even with a subsidy, you’ll still need to manage part of the cost yourself. The basic daily fee is currently around $10 per day, although you might need to contribute more if you’re:
- single and your annual income is above $27,463.80, or
- living with a partner and your annual income is above $21,294.
In these cases, your income-tested fee could be between $15.24 and $30.49 per day, although annual and lifetime caps apply(2). You should also be aware that once an ACAT approves your home care package, your services won’t begin
overnight. Recent data indicates that you could be waiting anywhere between 7 and 34 months from the date of your assessment until you start receiving home care services.(3)
If you feel that you’re unable to care for yourself at home, you might consider moving into residential aged care. Even if you’re not at that stage yet, it’s worth planning ahead and taking the time to find an aged care facility you’ll be comfortable in later.
As well as providing accommodation, aged care facilities usually offer meals, medical and nursing services, and even social activities. There are all kinds of options available, from communities for semi-independent living to facilities with 24-hour nursing care.
When you’re exploring your options, you should consider looking for a facility that offers:
- a pleasant and comfortable environment
- supportive and helpful staff
- regular outings and activities
- a variety of meal options, and
- sufficient medical services in the event your health deteriorates, so you won’t have to move again if you don’t want to.
Before making a decision, you might want to visit a few places to get an idea of the standards of care and comfort they offer.
It can also be helpful to ask someone to come along with you to get a second opinion, like a family member or friend – or a carer if you’re receiving home care.
How much does it cost?
The accommodation fee you’ll be charged will depend on the aged care facility itself, and factors like the services they offer, their location and the demand for accommodation. To learn more about the potential costs involved, visit the federal government’s MyAgedCare website.
In most cases, you can choose to pay your fee:
- as a lump sum called a Refundable Accommodation Deposit (RAD), where any unused money is refunded to you if you leave the facility
- through regular rent-style payments known as Daily Accommodation Payments (DAC), or
- using a combination of both.
If you can’t afford the full fee yourself, the government will provide means-tested financial assistance. However, a waiting period may apply if an ACAT approves you for a government-funded or subsidised residential placement. In 2019, the median wait time was 152 days.(3)
Talk to your adviser
Your financial adviser can support you through many aspects of the aged care process – from filling out Centrelink paperwork to choosing the best way to pay for your accommodation. Because your adviser understands your finances, they can give you the right guidance to make your aged care journey far less daunting.
1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Aged care, 2019.
2 Australian Government, Home care package costs and fees, 2019.
3 Australian Productivity Commission, Report on government services
2020, January 2020.