Are you or your loved one eligible for a government subsidised Home Care Package? Here’s everything you need to know:
If you or your loved one could benefit from the support of home care services to keep living comfortably at home, it’s time to explore Home Care Packages.
Home care services allow thousands of senior Australians to remain living in their own home with household and/or medical/nursing support. Home Care Packages are subsidised by the Australian Government, so that all older Australians can access affordable care services.
This article outlines how Home Care Packages work, and who is eligible for a Home Care Package in Australia.
What is a Home Care Package?
Home Care Packages provide government funding to help older Australians access home care services.
A set amount of money is allocated to an individual’s Home Care Package as an annual budget. Using this money, home care services are organised and administered by a Home Care Package Provider on the individual’s behalf.
As people age, living independently at home can be more challenging. Getting some help at home can allow people to remain at their home for as long as possible before deciding to transition to an aged care facility.
What support can a Home Care Package provide?
More than 275,000 government funded Home Care Packages are currently available to help senior Australians live at home, rather than enter residential aged care.
Home Care Packages can fund services including:
- Bathing, hygiene and grooming
- Nursing and medical care
- Podiatry, physiotherapy and other therapies
- Meals and food preparation
- Help with impairments or continence
- Cleaning, laundry and other chores
- Home or garden maintenance
- Changes to the home such as stair lifts or bathroom safety rail
- Aids to stay independent
- Social outings, groups and visitors
Goods and services not usually covered by a standard home care package include:
- Items that would normally be purchased out of general income
- Buying food, except as part of enteral feeding requirements
- Payment for permanent accommodation, including assistance with home purchase, mortgage payments or rent
- Payment of home care fees
- Payment of fees or charges for other types of care funded or jointly funded by the Australian Government
- Home modifications or assets that are not related to your care needs
- Travel and accommodation for holidays
- The cost of entertainment activities, such as club memberships and tickets to sporting events
- Gambling activities
- Payment for services and items covered by the Medicare Benefits Schedule or the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
Here is more information about what services Home Care Packages can fund:
Who is eligible for a Home Care Package?
To be eligible for a Home Care Package, an individual must be an older person who is 65 or older (50 years or older for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people). A younger person with a disability, dementia or other care needs not met through other specialist services may be able to qualify for a Home Care Package.
From there, eligibility is determined based on health, mobility and personal circumstances.
The quickest way to check your Home Care Package eligibility is to use My Aged Care’s online eligibility checker. This handy tool asks questions about mobility and independence (such as being able to get dressed, prepare and eat meals). It also includes questions about who else is providing support at home, e.g., a friend or family member. Recent events (such as a fall or trip to hospital) are covered in the eligibility checker, as is the emotional/mental state of the individual.
If you are deemed eligible to apply for a Home Care Package, you will then be asked to share details including a Medicare number, and to create a My Aged Care record.
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How do you apply for a Home Care Package?
Once you have determined eligibility for a Home Care Package using the eligibility checker, the next step is to apply for an in-person assessment. (ACAT Assessment)
ACAT Assessments are coordinated by Government organisation My Aged Care. They are used to evaluate the care needs of individuals and determine who can access government subsidised aged care services. In Victoria the term used is ACAS, or Aged Care Assessment Service.
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.
Here’s some more information about applying for an ACAT assessment: How to apply for an assessment | My Aged Care
What are the four levels of Home Care Packages?
Once an individual confirms their eligibility for a Home Care Package, the next step is to determine which level they qualify for.
Home Care Packages sit across four different levels, reflecting the level of care needed by the recipient:
- Level 1: At the lowest level, you or your loved one will have basic needs covered with a few visits per week by carers.
- Level 2: Level two provides a slightly higher level of care with more frequent visits.
- Level 3: The third level is the first for clients with higher needs. At this level, carers will visit most days of the week and provide high support levels.
- Level 4: The highest level provides for elderly Australians with high-level needs. At this level, carers will visit seven days a week and will take care of almost everything.
How much will you have to pay for a Home Care Package?
The amount you may need to contribute to the cost of your Home Care package will depend on your level of income, cash and assets.
This is determined by an income assessment that must be completed via Services Australia/Centrelink.
Read more about the Home Care Package means assessment here: Home Care Package means assessment – Aged care entry requirements for providers – Services Australia
From 20 September 2023, the basic daily fee for each Home Care Package level is:
● Level 1: $11.22
● Level 2: $11.87
● Level 3: $12.20
● Level 4: $12.53
Your means test will determine whether you are required to pay more than this amount. You can also pay extra fees if you choose to access additional services that aren’t part of a standard Home Care Package.
Read more about Home Care Package fees here: Schedule of Fees and Charges for Residential and Home Care (agedcaredecisions.com.au)
How long should you expect to wait for an available Home Care Package?
Each individual’s case will be assessed by priority, with higher-priority cases serviced first. If you or your loved one are starting to consider home care, it is recommended you take action as early as possible.
According to My Aged Care’s website, individuals can expect to wait approximately three to six months before being assigned a Home Care Package.
How will I know when my Home Care Package is available?
Around three months before you receive your Home Care Package, you will receive a letter advising you to prepare. This is your cue to find a home care provider if you don’t already have one in mind.
Next, you will receive a letter confirming your package and containing your referral code. At this point, you will have 56 days to enter into a home care package agreement with your provider.
What is a referral code and why do I need it?
Your referral code is a unique reference number allocated to you or your loved one when you apply for a Home Care Package.
You will need to give this code to your chosen provider for them to be able to carry out your services. It allows your provider to view your records and accept your referral.
What is the difference between Commonwealth Home Support Program and Home Care Packages?
When researching home care, you may have also come across the Commonwealth Home Support Package (CHSP) service. The CHSP is similar to a Home Care Package but is far less comprehensive. The CHSP is for elderly Australians who only need one or two basic services to remain comfortably living at home:
Find out more about CHSP here: All about CHSP – the Commonwealth Home Support Program (agedcaredecisions.com.au)
What is the alternative to home care?
Home care may not be the right choice for you or your loved one. If this is the case, you may want to consider a move into residential aged care.
Visit Australia’s largest independent aged care reviews website at https://agedcarereviews.com.au/ to find helpful reviews of facilities near you.
How do I find a Home Care Package provider?
Aged Care Decisions helps thousands of Australian families navigate all stages of the aged care journey.
Our custom-built software together with our Placement Specialists can match your location, budget, care needs and personal preferences with available providers that suit your specific needs.
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