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Among the many shocking observations raised in the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety interim report was the ‘frightening, confronting and confusing’ telephone and internet-based national aged care entry system called My Aged Care.
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 and 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 least need it.
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.
Whether you phone using the 1800 number or log-in, the aim is to screen an older person to determine if 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. The cost is based on 85% of the single Age Pension, which is currently $51.63 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, pay 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?
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.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was established on 8 October 2018. An interim report was in October 2019 and a final report is due by 12 November 2020.
Bina Brown is a journalist and director of aged care solutions company Third Age Matters.