Aged Care - Overview
The Commonwealth Government regulates and partly funds the provision of residential aged care for frail older people who can no longer live independently in their own home. There are two levels of aged care and although they are officially called "low level residential aged care" and "high level residential aged care" they are still widely known and referred to as "hostels" and "nursing homes", respectively.
Before you can enter a hostel or nursing home you must be assessed and approved for care by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). ACATs are generally made up of local doctors, nurses, social workers and the like and they are usually located at hospitals, aged care centres or community centres (see link below for contact details). In appropriate circumstances they can see you in your own home or in hospital in order to make an assessment.
You can find further information about ACAT assessments and ACAT locations on the Aged Care Australia website, which is operated by the Department of Health and Ageing.
Specified Care and Services
Residential aged care facilities must provide the following "Specified Care and Services":
- accommodation services - to all residents irrespective of their level of care
- low level care services - to all residents irrespective of their level of care
- high level care services - to high level care residents only.
Accommodation services include:
- administration, including resident documentation
- basic accommodation related services, such as furnishings
- general laundry, towels, washers, soap and toilet paper
- cleaning services
- maintenance of buildings and grounds
- staff continuously on call to provide emergency assistance
- meals, including special dietary requirements.
Low level care services are personal care type services. They include:
- assistance with the activities of daily living such as bathing, toileting, eating, dressing, mobility and communication
- certain treatments and procedures, including assistance with medication
- recreational therapy and rehabilitation support
- assistance in accessing health and therapy services
- support for people who have difficulty understanding.
High level care services are nursing type services and additional personal care services. They include:
- specialised furnishings and equipment items, such as those used to assist mobility, eg. walking frames, wheelchairs, lifting devices
- basic medical and pharmaceutical supplies and equipment and aids to assist with toileting and continence management
- nursing procedures
- administration of medication
- provision of therapy services
- oxygen and oxygen equipment on a short term or episodic basis.
Veterans and war widow(er)s may be entitled to additional services through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
You can find further information about specified care and services on the Aged Care Australia website, which is operated by the Department of Health and Ageing.
Fees and Charges
When you move from your home to a residential aged care facility, your (changed) circumstances can affect your pension and the amount you pay for care. It is therefore a good idea to seek professional financial advice and it is a good idea to do this in advance so that your affairs can be structured so as to obtain the best outcome. The free Financial Information Service (13 2300) may be a good place to start.
Most payments for Commonwealth Government funded residential aged care services are GST-free. GST is generally only payable to the extent that a payment relates to additional discretionary services, such as hairdressing, where the supplier is registered or is required to be registered for GST.
Fees and Charges – Hostels (low level care)
Depending on the hostel and your personal and financial circumstances, you may be asked to pay:
- a basic daily fee
- an additional daily fee
- an accommodation bond
- an extra service fee (if the hostel provides superior accommodation, facilities, services or meals).
Fees and Charges - Nursing Homes (high level care)
Depending on the nursing home and your personal and financial circumstances, you may be asked to pay:
- a basic daily care fee
- an additional daily care fee
- an accommodation charge, or in some cases an accommodation bond
- an extra service fee (if the nursing home provides superior accommodation, facilities, services or meals).
Your can find an Overview of Fees and Charges and an updated Schedule of Fees and Charges on the Department of Health and Ageing website. No fee is payable for an ACAT assessment.
The Australian Taxation Office website also has information about Medical Expenses Tax Offsets.
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