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Among the many shocking observations raised in the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was the ‘frightening, confronting and confusing’ telephone and internet-based national aged care entry system called My Aged Care.
My Aged Care remains even after the March 2021 release of the final report by the Royal Commission, however there is some help in the form of navigation services within Services Australia.
My Aged Care was established in 2014 in partial response to a Productivity Commission recommendation following its 2011 Caring for Older Australians inquiry.
What was supposed to be a visible and user-friendly entry point for people’s early searches to make aged care more accessible, and the main vehicle for providing people with advice about aged care in Australia, is often a source of frustration at a time when people are already stressed and confused about their options.
So why would you need it?
For many people My Aged Care is the first point of call when, possibly after considerable angst, you put your hand up for help. It is hard to avoid if you are entering the aged care system.
My Aged Care provides:
- Information on the different types of aged care services available
- A needs assessment to identify eligibility and the right type of care
- Referrals and support to find service providers that can meet your needs
- Information on what you might need to pay towards the cost of your care.
You can access My Aged Care over the phone using the 1800 number or you can log in online. Either way, the aim is to screen an older person to determine whether they are eligible for support before recommending an assessment.
There are two pathways for assessment. Both can be conducted in the home. One leads to the Regional Assessment Service and the possibility of care under the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP).
The other leads to an Aged Care Assessment Team (Aged Care Assessment Service in Victoria) and possible eligibility for Home Care Packages, permanent residential aged care, residential respite care or a combination of services.
The Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACAT) make a comprehensive assessment of a person’s needs to determine eligibility for care.
The result of the assessment will determine the path you take.
Possible paths in aged care
Subsidised care at home is delivered under CHSP or as a Home Care Package.
CHSP covers entry-level, ad-hoc services. Services like cleaning or personal care are delivered at a highly subsidised rate by a range of providers.
A Home Care Package is a budget assigned to an individual and with chosen services delivered by a provider.
CHSP and Home Care Package services can be delivered wherever you reside, which may be a retirement village or the home of a family member.
If you need more help at home, then you need to go back to My Aged Care to book another assessment or get referrals to other service providers.
Residential respite provides short-term care on a planned or emergency basis in aged care homes to people who have been assessed and approved to receive it.
Residential respite is designed to give a carer or care recipient a break from their usual care arrangements.
Respite can be in an aged care facility or in purpose-run respite centres where you pay privately according to their fee schedule. Bookings are generally made through the facility.
If you have ACAT/ACAS approval, you are entitled to up to 63 days of respite care per financial year in a Government-subsidised facility. The cost is based on 85% of the single Age Pension, which is currently $56.87 a day.
If you need longer you can apply to ACAT for an additional 21 days of care.
It is unusual to find a facility that will let you book the full 63 days unless you are considering becoming a permanent resident. Most people book respite in one- or two-week blocks.
Some people may use respite as a ‘try before you buy’ type arrangement before moving into an aged care facility they may be interested in.
Permanent residential care
If you feel you can no longer live independently in your own home, you may be considering an aged care facility.
An ACAT assessment is needed for anyone seeking a room in an accredited aged care facility.
Facilities come in all shapes and sizes and can be run by private companies, church groups, charitable organisations or communities. It is important to find the one that fits your needs as well as your budget.
Services in a facility
Anyone entering residential aged care, irrespective of their means, pays a basic daily care fee (equivalent to 85% of the Age Pension). At a minimum, this must cover:
- Staff who are continuously on call to provide emergency assistance
- Assistance with personal care such as bathing, going to the toilet, eating and dressing
- Support with mobility and communication
- Help to access specialised therapy services or a health practitioner service
- Support for people with cognitive impairment, such as dementia.
Aged care facilities provide meals (including special diets), toiletry items such as towels, washers, soap and toilet paper, and general laundry and cleaning services. They also provide a bed, mattress and linen, which you must use. You are encouraged to make your room more homely by decorating it with your own furniture, paintings and personal belongings.
Most aged care facilities provide a range of social and recreational activities, and rehabilitation support at no additional charge.
Not happy with the services?
If you are not happy with the aged care services you receive, first try to resolve any disputes with the service provider. Complaints can also be made through the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, which the government established to protect and enhance the safety, health, wellbeing and quality of life of people receiving aged care.
To raise a concern or make a complaint about a Commonwealth-funded aged care service, you can contact the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on 1800 951 822 or complete a form on its website.
Improvements to My Aged Care
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety final report made 148 wide-ranging recommendations, many of which are underway.
The My Aged Care website remains, but measures have been put in place to assist with navigating the system including free information services at 15 Services Australia centres.
Other reforms include:
- The new Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) care funding model replaced the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) to determine the cost of care from 1 October. The aim of AN-ACC is to better match government funding with the costs of delivering care and provide additional funding to cover the increase in average care minutes.
- The introduction of a new National Aged Care Advisory Council and Council of Elders to provide feedback and guidance to government on reforms
- 33,800 additional training places and 115 scholarships for nurses as well as new payments for eligible nurses to encourage more aged care workers
- Introduction of the Serious Incident Reporting Scheme to increase resident protection
- Mandatory reporting of care staffing minutes
- An additional $10 per resident per day subsidy to providers to help improve the quality of services
- An increase in Home Care Packages.