Living in a residential aged care home

As you grow older, you may find that you need more help with day-to-day tasks or health care. If you are living on your own and not able to get out and about as easily as you used to, you may also want some extra company. Sometimes, the best way to receive help and support can be by living in an aged care home either on a permanent basis or for a short stay (called ‘residential respite’).

You may need help because of an illness, a disability, an emergency, or because of the needs of your carer, family or friends. Staff at residential aged care homes can help you with day-to-day tasks (such as cleaning, cooking, laundry); personal care (such as dressing, grooming, going to the toilet); or 24-hour nursing care (such as wound care, catheter care).

Aged care homes are owned and run by people who are approved by the Australian Government to care for you. The aged care system in Australia aims to make sure that all older people can receive support and quality care when they need it.

What to expect

Deciding to move into an aged care home is often a time of stress, high emotion, a longing for the past and uncertainty about the future. It is a challenging and emotional decision for the person moving and their family, friends and carers.

Each aged care home is different. There will be new routines, new environments and new people, all living together under one roof. You may have help with many of the day-to-day tasks that you’ve been used to always doing for yourself, and there will be plenty of social activities going on in your new home.

Residential Aged Care Homes

Each home is different, so visiting them will help you to find out what you can expect. You’ll also be able to see what the accommodation is like, and what types of care, services and activities they offer.

Before you visit any aged care homes, it’s a good idea to make a list of the types of care you need and the things that are important to you in a home. You may want to take your letter from the ACAT as some homes will want to know that you have been approved and what care you require. Talk to your carer or family members to make sure you’ve thought of everything, and ask them about their needs too, so that they can still support you in your new home.

As you visit each home, you may also want to make some notes about what you like, what you don’t like and whether you feel comfortable there. Your impressions of the staff and the environment will help you to make a decision about which home is right for you.

You may also want to think about your physical, spiritual, social and emotional care needs, to make sure an aged care home is right for you. Common questions to consider may include:

  • Do you need help with everyday tasks such as dressing, using the toilet, bathing or moving around your home?
  • What training do the care staff have (are there registered nurses, enrolled nurses or trained carers)? How many staff provide care overnight?
  • What arrangements are there to ensure privacy for residents?
  • What are the meal arrangements – seating, times, menus, visitors, meals in your room and special diets?
  • Can the home meet your special needs (including language and culture, religious observances, pets and access to medical visits)?
  • How are social and cultural activities decided? Are residents’ interests taken into account?
  • How can family and friends be involved in care? Can they stay overnight if needed?
  • What transport can you access for visiting shops, friends and family?
  • Can the home meet your medical needs such as assistance with medication, wound or catheter care?
  • Do you need services such as podiatry (foot care), physiotherapy (exercise, mobility, strength and balance), the services of a dietitian (nutrition assessment, food and nutrition assessment, food and nutrition advice, dietary changes) or speech therapy (communicating, swallowing or eating)?
  • What type of care services cannot be provided? How would you be advised of this?

Eligibility

If you’re thinking about moving into an aged care home that is subsidised by the Australian Government, the first step is to organise a free assessment with an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) phone (07) 5470 6731.

An ACAT usually includes a doctor, nurse, social worker and/or other health professionals who will assess whether you are eligible to receive care and which services you need. If you need planned or emergency residential respite care, an ACAT will also assess your eligibility.

An ACAT can:

  • Give you information about aged care homes in your area
  • Assess and approve your eligibility for an aged care home
  • Help you arrange residential respite care, like short stays in aged care homes, if needed
  • Answer any other questions you might have about the different types of aged care homes.

If you are not eligible for residential care, an ACAT may be able to suggest other options so you can receive the care you need.

What will it cost?

Moving into an aged care home may require one-off payments or deposits, as well as ongoing fees for your care, accommodation and daily living expenses.

How much you pay depends on your financial situation. However, there are strong protections in place to make sure that care is affordable for everyone. The Australian Government sets the maximum fees for care and daily living expenses, and there are also rules about how much you can be asked to pay for your accommodation.

The amount you will pay will be set out in a Resident Agreement between you and your aged care provider.

You may be asked to pay one or more of the following fees in residential care:

  • Basic daily fee: this covers living costs such as meals, power and laundry. For some people this is the only fee they are required to pay.
  • Means-tested care fee: this is an additional contribution towards the cost of care that some people may be required to pay. The Department of Human Services will work out if you are required to pay this fee based on an assessment of your income and assets, and will advise you of the amount.
  • Accommodation payment: this is for your accommodation in the aged care home. Some people will have their accommodation costs met in full or in part by the Australian Government, while others will need to pay the accommodation price agreed with the aged care home. The Department of Human Services will advise you which applies to you based on an assessment of your income and assets.
  • Fees for extra or additional optional services: additional fees may apply if you choose a higher standard of accommodation or additional services. These vary from home to home. Your aged care provider can provide you with details of these services and the fees that apply.

There are annual and lifetime caps in place to limit the amount of the means-tested care fee you will need to pay.

For more information call MyAgedCare on 1800 200 422