Different levels of care an elderly person might need


As we age, we each have specific care needs unique to us. If its time for you or a loved one to enter into an aged care facility, it is important to find the residential aged care facility that is best able to meet your specific needs. Aged care homes offer different levels of care and not all homes offer all levels. Read more about the different levels of care below.


Different care needs an elderly person might need at a residential aged care facility

An elderly person who has decided to move into a residential aged care facility will require different levels of personal care or clinical care, depending on their situation. They may also need specialist care, particularly if they suffer from dementia.

Personal care provides help with things like:

  • bathing
  • dressing
  • eating
  • taking medication
  • performing health treatments.

Clinical care provides help with things like:

  • nursing services
  • speech therapy
  • physiotherapy
  • special bedding
  • podiatry.

People with dementia will need special dementia care to ensure their specific care needs are met.


Dementia unit or memory support unit for elderly people in aged care

Seniors with dementia have varying needs, which change over time. It’s important to find an aged care home that caters specifically to seniors with dementia. This may mean a dementia unit or memory support unit, but there are other possibilities. There are predominantly three options in Australia:

  1. Dementia-friendly nursing homes
  2. Dementia-specific nursing homes
  3. Secure dementia ward in a nursing home


What is a dementia-friendly nursing home?

A dementia-friendly nursing home is a residential aged care facility that is able to provide care for seniors with mild dementia symptoms. This means seniors likely need assistance with personal care and taking medication. They should still be able to move around on their own and not need any special dementia-related care.


What is a dementia-specific nursing home?

A dementia-specific nursing home caters to all seniors but also has a dedicated dementia unit. These units are funded by the Specialist Dementia Care Program and have staff that are fully trained in dementia care. Residents in dementia units are cared for by specialist doctors and nursing staff and they also have access to allied health professionals and personal care assistants.

Dementia units are also referred to as memory support units because they are purposefully built to support people impacted by memory loss. They are well lit and avoid patterns that can confuse seniors with dementia. They also prioritise mental stimulation with things such as gardens so residents can spend time doing activities outside.


What is a secure dementia ward?

A secure dementia ward is a dementia unit with security designed to keep residents safe. They are best suited to seniors with severe dementia symptoms and challenging behaviours. Secure dementia units provide a safe space where residents can wander inside and outside without the risk of leaving the facility.



Low and high care needs in aged care

Many residential aged care facilities offer two main levels of care: low care and high care. Some may only offer low care, while others may specialise in high care. Once you know which level of care you need, you can more easily find the right aged care facility.

A residential aged care facility may also provide specialist care (including for dementia), respite care or palliative care.

A low level care facility offers accommodation and personal care to residents. This usually includes help with showering, dressing, eating, taking medication and some nursing care where required.

A high level care facility offers this same care plus access to continuous nursing care. Residents with high care needs are usually frail and may have various health conditions that require specific treatments and/or medications. High level care does not include dementia, which instead requires a special level of care specific to dementia.

If you expect to need higher care later, it is a good idea to find an aged care facility that offers both low care and high care so that you can Age in Place.



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How do the needs get assessed through ACFI (Aged care funding instrument)

Each approved residential aged care facility is subsidised by the government. The aged care home receives a subsidy based on the level of care required by its residents.

After you have received 7 days of continuous care at the facility, they will conduct an ACFI appraisal. The form includes questions related to the following four essential areas of need:

  1. Medical diagnoses
  2. Activities of daily living
  3. Behaviour
  4. Complex health care



Medical diagnoses

The facility staff will answer questions about a resident’s medical diagnoses, including behavioural and mental conditions. They will have to provide evidence, which includes medical assessments, notes and letters from health professionals.


Activities of daily living

The questions in this part of the form are based on nutrition, mobility, personal hygiene, toileting and continence. It will assess each resident’s ability to do personal care tasks, readiness to eat, ability to transfer from one position to another and to move around.



Here, the questions are designed to assess cognitive ability. They also assess a resident’s tendency to wander, verbal behaviour, physical behaviour, depression and medication.


Complex health care

The final part of the assessment looks at any complex health care needs. These can include things like blood pressure, skin integrity, pain management, feeding management, intravenous fluids, and much more.

One of the main purposes of the ACFI is to enable aged care facilities to assess the level of care required by each aged care resident. This then ensures the facility receives the appropriate available government subsidy to help cover the cost of running the nursing home and providing the necessary care to its residents.


How do I know which level of care I need?

Aged Care Decisions provide a free service to assist you through the aged care process. We can help you find the right aged care home for your specific care needs. Our aged care specialists are with you every step of the way, answering questions, organising tours and helping you determine what solution is best for you.

If you would like to discuss your care needs or find an available aged care facility, call us on 1300 775 870 or fill out our online form. One of the Aged Care Decisions team will be ready to help you find the care you need.


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