Ageing in Australia: Your essential guide to entering Aged Care

Dec 16, 2023
Source: Getty Images.

It’s the Australian way – we aren’t freely willing to part with our family home and we value our independence. So, when it comes to ageing, we will do everything we can to stay put for as long as we can.

However, if and when the time comes for you or someone you love to move into aged care, there can be a lot to work through – both financially and emotionally. While it’s ideal to have a plan before the need for care is imminent, the reality is that moving into aged care is not something that we usually plan for.

Navigating the process and knowing who to engage and when is important and can alleviate some of the pressure at an emotionally overwhelming time. Broadly, there are four steps involved with entering aged care. Often, where a move into aged care follows a trauma event or other unexpected illness, some of the steps can happen simultaneously or in quite quick succession. It doesn’t leave a lot of time to have family discussions or give you the time you need to work through important decisions. This is one of the reasons why having a plan is important and sharing your plan with those close to you is a must.

1. Initiate entry- get assessed

When it comes to aged care options, there are both ‘Government subsidised’, as well as ‘private’ in operation. Government subsidised facilities aren’t restricted to those with modest income and assets. As long as you’ve had an ‘ACAT’ (or ACAS in Victoria) assessment, which is a health and mobility assessment completed by the ‘Aged Care Assessment Team’, then you’ll be eligible to apply to enter and the Government will partially subsidise your costs.

On the other hand, private facilities do not require an ACAT assessment, and are not eligible for Government subsidies. The cost of care is agreed between you and care provider. You may be eligible for permanent care, respite care, or both. The ACAT assessment will outline this.

Respite care is a temporary arrangement designed to give care givers a break and can be accessed up to 63 days per person, per calendar year. ACAT assessments generally don’t expire, so if the need for support is on the horizon, it may pay to get on the front foot and start the process. You can contact ACAT via the My Aged Care line on 1800 200 422.

2. Finding a facility

If the need for care is urgent, availability might play a large part in determining what options are available. This is another reason why it can pay to plan ahead. Some facilities maintain a wait list which can help advance planning. You may have a preference to find a vacancy in a particular locality, or a residence that aligns with certain cultural or social needs. The My Aged Care website has a search function, where you can search for care providers based on location, care needs (for example, dementia), even down to providers that can communicate with residents in a particular language.

Information about availability, and details about the provider’s compliance history and performance against quality measures is also available. You can also see the different types of rooms that are available, which sometimes have different features (such as an ensuite, or favourable location within the building) and may also have different costs. When you find a provider that has availability and suits your needs, you can then start the formal application process.

3. Apply for care

The aged care provider will issue an ‘accommodation agreement’ before entry to care. You have 28 days after entry to complete the agreement. You’ll also usually need to fill out an application form. You’re not obliged to disclose your financial position on this form, but often as the formal fee assessment process via Services Australia (Centrelink) may take some time, the provider may want to ensure that the room that they make available is affordable, based on means and ability to pay.

Services Australia is responsible for calculating part of the contribution to the cost of care. They perform this role whether or not the care recipient is a social security recipient. Although they might already hold information about your income and assets, it’s a great time to check that this information is current (which can be done via myGov) to make sure that fees are accurate. You can find out more about the forms and this process on the Services Australia website.

There’s no obligation to have an income and assets assessment, but for most people it is the better option because if an assessment isn’t complete, the maximum fees will be payable and Government subsidies won’t apply.

4. Moving in to care

The final step is the move itself. There may be family and other loved ones who can help with the move and what comes after, such as the task of tidying up the former home for sale or rent. There are also professional service providers, often referred to as ‘placement services’ that will help for a fee. They can also help in the earlier stages of looking for the right aged care provider in a suitable location, within the price range you’re looking for.

For more information There is a lot to think about. To understand more about the aged care process, the fees that might be payable, and other important things to be thinking about, MLC have developed a handy ‘Guide to aged care’ to help guide you and your loved ones.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO: This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial or legal situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product or legal advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial or legal decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.


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