The aged care industry is jam-packed with acronyms and confusing terminology. This easy-to-read article will walk you through the basics, without the waffle.
The types of aged care available in Australia
Residential Aged Care – aka Nursing Homes or Aged Care Homes
The terms ‘residential aged care,’ ‘nursing homes’ and ‘aged care homes’ are interchangeable. They all describe facilities that provide accommodation, meals, personal care, entertainment, lifestyle activities and 24/7 nursing care for older people who can no longer live in their own home.
The Australian Government subsidises residential aged care for eligible seniors.
In a retirement village, or ‘independent living community,’ residents reside in self-contained apartments, townhouses, or units, with onsite management providing limited support.
A retirement village will often feature facilities such as swimming pools, community gardens and dining rooms, and most communities have a calendar of social events residents can choose to attend. Residents are responsible for their own health and wellbeing and for maintaining their home.
Retirement villages allow residents to maintain their independence and autonomy in an environment that still supports their needs.
Residential Respite Care
Residential respite care involves a person staying in a nursing home room for a short period of time and enjoying the services available, including meals, laundry, social activities, and personal and medical care. Respite care is often used to give regular carers a break, to give families extra time to arrange permanent care for a loved one, or as a ‘try-before-you-buy’ trial for someone considering a move into permanent aged care.
Eligible people can access up to 63 days of subsidised respite care each financial year.
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Home care delivers in-home services to help older people live at home for as long as they can. The Australian Government subsidises two home care programs that deliver a range of services to eligible seniors:
Home Care Packages
Home Care Packages provide funds for the delivery of in-home services such as cleaning, home administration and maintenance, personal care, shopping, meal preparation, travel, and social support to eligible seniors who are living at home.
Home Care Packages are allocated by My Aged Care across four levels, determined by an individual’s assessed needs.
Allocated funds are managed by Home Care Package Providers, who coordinate with individuals to decide on and organise the services that are most appropriate and beneficial.
Home Care Packages are government subsidised, with eligibility dependent on age, care needs, and personal circumstances. You can check your eligibility here: My Aged Care eligibility checker.
Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP)
The Commonwealth Home Support Program provides basic, entry-level in-home care services for seniors. The CHSP is most suitable for seniors who only need one or two services to help them live independently.
CHSP services are delivered by around 1,400 providers across Australia, many of them not-for-profit organisations.
Short-Term Restorative Care
Short term restorative care is an early intervention that aims to improve the wellbeing and independence of seniors and delay their admission into residential care or their need for longer term home care services.
Care is provided for up to 56 days in a coordinated package of services, which can be delivered in a residential aged care setting, in the home, or a combination of both.
Transition care can only be accessed directly upon discharge from hospital.
Eligible people can receive rehabilitation care and support services either in a residential aged care facility or at home, to assist in their recovery and rehabilitation.
Transition care can be received for a maximum of 84 days per person per financial year.
A multi-purpose service provides a mix of health, aged care, and community services to small, rural, and remote communities where the local population is not large enough to support separate services, such as a hospital plus a residential aged care facility.
More than 2.65 million Australians provide care for a loved one.
The Carers Payment is a fortnightly payment that helps cover basic living costs. It is for people who are unable to fully support themselves via substantial paid employment because they provide constant care for someone in their home.
You may be eligible for the Carers Payment if you provide constant care to someone who is frail aged or is living with an illness or a disability.
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program
This program funds organisations to provide culturally appropriate aged care for older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people close to home and community.
Accessing government subsidised aged care
My Aged Care
My Aged Care is the Australian Government organisation that manages access to subsidised aged care services including residential aged care, short-term respite care, Home Care Packages, and the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP).
My Aged Care aims to make it easier for older people, their families, and carers to access information on ageing and aged care, have their needs assessed and get access to services.
Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT)
An Aged Care Assessment Team is made up of a multidisciplinary group of people including nurses, social workers, and other health professionals. ACATs are managed by My Aged Care. They work to determine individuals’ eligibility for government-subsidised residential aged care, Home Care Packages, and transition care. In Victoria, ACAT is known as Aged Care Assessment Services (ACAS).
ACAT Assessments evaluate care needs and determine who can access government subsidised aged care services.
During an ACAT assessment a member of the Aged Care Assessment Team will interview you to check your physical and mental health. They will look at the way you manage day-to-day activities and speak with you about what aged care services will be best to help you.
You can organise an assessment online here: Apply for an aged care assessment | My Aged Care
or by calling My Aged Care on 1800 200 422.
A doctor or other health professional can also refer you to My Aged Care for an assessment.
Income and Assets Assessments
An Income and Assets Assessment determines what you need to contribute towards the fees and charges associated with your aged care. This assessment is coordinated by Services Australia (Centrelink) and is essential if you want to avoid paying maximum fees.
Visit Services Australia: Getting aged care services – Services Australia or call 1800 227 475.
If you are already receiving a means-tested pension – like the aged pension, disability support pension or a DVA income support payment – then you won’t need to fill out any forms. Simply call Services Australia on the number above and ask them to start the income assessment process for you.
Read more about fees and charges for aged care:
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