Staying at home as you grow older, how the government can help you receive home care services.

home care services

The move towards home care services

The Australian Government has had a positive shift in its aged care focus. It strives to keep aging Australians in their homes by assisting with the funding of home care services. Suppose you are beginning to realise that living independently and without assistance is becoming unmanageable. In that case, a Home Care Package (HCP) may allow you to continue living at home for longer. The Government has introduced HCPs to allow more older people to live at home as they grow older rather than moving into residential aged care. Their design is to be consumer-directed, enabling you to have more choices about the type of home care services they receive and from whom. 

To receive an HCP, you must first be assessed by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) or, in Victoria, Aged Care Assessment Services (ACAS). Then you must be approved for the program following that assessment.  

The Assessment Process 

Step 1: Request an ACAT assessment  

If you are over 65 and need some support in the home, you can request an assessment. You can request either through the myagedcare gateway or through a referral from your doctor. Fortunately, there is no charge for the assessment. They are Government funded. But it is essential to request the assessment as soon as the need arises as there can be a wait of up to 6 weeks. 

Step 2: An Interview 

The team’s role is to determine your level of independence in day-to-day activities. Don’t worry; this is in no way a scary or invasive process. Instead, your needs, opinions and preferences are central to the assessment. It is generally encouraged that a career, relative or close friend is a part of the discussion to help you feel more comfortable and supported.  

A member or two from your local ACAT team will visit you in your home or hospital to assess your needs. This team comprises doctors, nurses, social workers, and other health professionals. They will ask questions concerning your ability to do daily and personal activities. These aim to determine the best care option for your situation.  

Examples of some questions may be: 

1. Can you confidently go to the shops by yourself? 

2. Who is your current support system (i.e., carers, family and friends)? 

The process focuses on providing a single view of your assessed needs and the aged care services offered. A central client record is utilised for this purpose. Keeping with the client-focused approach is the availability of an interpreter for those from a non-English speaking background.  

Then with your approval, they will contact your doctor for more information on your medication history.  

Step 3: The results 

You will receive a written assessment containing the ACAT member’s recommendation. They recommend you continue living in the community or move into residential aged care accommodation. 

It will include reasons for its decision, the services for which the person has been approved and possible local providers. Their role is not to recommend individual homes or community services but to provide you with the best information possible to help you make your best decision.  

You can discuss these results with the ACAT leader, or steps are outlined in the letter explaining what to do if you disagree with the assessment and would like to appeal.  

home care services

Step 4: Awaiting an HCP 

After you have been assessed as eligible for an HCP, it can take some time to get an HCP. Your wait time depends on what package level you are eligible for and the urgency of your need for care. On average, for people with a medium priority for all package levels, the expected wait time is 3 – 6 months. * 

Step 5: Designing your HCP 

Once you have been allocated a package, a care manager will design your care plan to meet your specific needs regarding home care services. These needs may include housework, shopping, laundry, meals, showering and dressing. You control the number of funds and allocate them across the range of care and service providers available within your package. This is where you may like to seek external guidance, such as a financial advisor, to make the best decision for your future, assets and family.  

How does the HCP work? And what will it cost me? 

The Government gives a subsidy to your chosen provider to arrange your tailored home care services package. The subsidy amount is based on your needs; there are four levels of home care packages:  

Package level Level of care needs* 
Level 1 Basic care needs – $9,179.75 a year 
Level 2 Low care needs – $16,147.60 a year 
Level 3 Intermediate care needs – $35,138.55 a year 
Level 4 High care needs – $53,268.10 a year 

There may be a cost to you that is determined by what you can afford. Your contribution to the HCP consists of up to three fees*: 

  1. Basic daily fee  

This may be up to $11.71*** 

You may be asked by your provider to pay a fee. 

Effective 20th September 2022, the basic daily care fee for a Home Care Package is: 

Package Level Daily Fee Fortnightly Amount 
1 $10.49 $146.86 
2 $11.09 $155.26 
3 $11.40 $159.60 
4 $11.71 $163.94 
  1. Income-tested care fee  

This may be up to $33.59***  

Depending on a formal income assessment from Services Australia, you may also have to pay this fee. Though, there are annual and lifetime limits on how much you can be asked to pay. 

  1. Additional fees 

If you have agreed to pay for extra home care services that your HCP won’t cover, you will be required to pay this. You can find out more about these fees on myagedcare’s website or try out their Fee Estimator.

If your circumstances/ situation changes, requesting a reassessment is essential so you may adjust your plan to fit your needs. 

How a financial advisor can assist you  

At Vision, one of our financial advisors, Hamish Ferguson, can provide a level-headed perspective to your family conversations that can sometimes be distressing or emotional. This ensures the best outcome for yourself. A family conversation can be an essential step in encouraging strong family communication. Often, the family members will become the decision-makers, hold an enduring power of attorney, or have responsibilities under other legal arrangements. It also ensures conflict is minimised in the future to avoid unnecessary stress on you. 

What can Hamish help with? 

  • Funding Options 
  • Impact on age pensions and means-tested fee 
  • Estate planning impacts 
  • Emotional and family considerations 
  • The potential value and use of former home  
  • Ability to generate cashflow  

Being proactive about your aged care needs is essential to making the best decision for yourself. Most people are reluctant to think about a potential move into care; justifiably, it is understandable to feel that way. However, planning for your future can help to demystify aged care and reduce stress levels. With awareness and pre-planning, you can maintain control and choice, have access to the financial resources to pay for maintenance and minimise the stress on you and your family. 

Contact Hamish today to start planning. 

*last revised 30 November 2022 

**Latest information sources 22/12/2022 

*** from 20 September 2022.