Many older people find that living at home becomes more difficult for a variety of reasons such as illness, disability, reduced mobility, isolation or the problems of maintaining a large property. It is important to look at the reasons for not being able to cope and find out if there are services available in your area to help you.
Contact My Aged Care, tel. 1800 200 422 to find out about home support services.
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Information for print or download (pdf)
Residential Aged Care Facilities (this page)
Finding a Residential Aged Care Facility - Steps to take
Choosing a Residential Aged Care Facility - A checklist
Glossary of aged care terms
What is residential aged care?
You may decide that you need the care provided by a residential aged care facility.
As well as providing accommodation, residential care facilities provide:
Facilities can vary in style, size and age. Some give priority to certain groups, such as war veterans, Aboriginal people or people from non-English speaking backgrounds.
Some facilities provide a secure area and/or a special program for people suffering with dementia.
Residential care facilities may be privately owned or run by church organisations, local councils and not-for-profit organisations. The Australian government accredits, regulates and funds residential aged care facilities.
Types of residential care facilities
There are two levels of care provided in aged care facilities: low level care (formerly known as hostels), and high level care (formerly known as nursing homes).
Low level care is for people who are regarded as semi-independent: able to get out of bed, use the toilet, get up from a chair, walk around the room or to the dining room with minimal assistance.
High level care facilities provide a higher level of care for people who need greater assistance and 24-hour nursing care.
Most facilities, however now offer Ageing in Place which allows residents with low care needs to remain in the same facility if their care needs increase to high care.
Will I need to pay?
Fees do apply in residential aged care and are worked out according to your ability to pay. There are two types:
Daily fees are your contribution to your daily living costs and care (meals, laundry, cleaning, personal and nursing care). The amount you pay will depend on your income.
Accommodation payments are your contribution to the cost of the accommodation. You will only pay an accommodation payment if you have assets worth over a certain amount. Facilities receive a higher government subsidy for residents who cannot pay an accommodation payment.
Hardship provisions exist to help residents who have genuine difficulty paying fees and payments.
What are ‘extra services’?
Some facilities provide‘extra services’. This means that the facility offers a higher standard of accommodation, food or services. It does not mean that a higher standard of care is offered. All facilities must meet the same care standards set by the Australian government.
Extra services facilities charge more. ‘Extra services’ may vary and may be a bigger room, a glass of wine with the evening meal, greater choice of meals and/or superior décor. If you choose to enter an extra service aged care home, an extra service agreement must be made between the aged care provider and the resident, in addition to the normal resident agreement. It should specify what the home will provide at a higher standard, how much features will cost and how often the extra service fees can be increased and by how much.
What is respite?
Some facilities have short-term care called respite. This is normally used to give carers a break but can also be used when a carer becomes ill or needs time off for a planned hospital stay.
Am I eligible?
You will need to be assessed by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). ACATs assess and approve people for entry into aged care facilities. The assessment will determine the level of care you require and how that care can best be provided. Anyone can contact the ACAT to arrange an assessment and there is no charge. A member of the ACAT will visit you and discuss your needs, including health, mobility and social needs.
An ACAT approval for high level permanent care and high and low level respite care does not lapse, unless stated in the approval. An ACAT approval for low level permanent care lapses 12 months from the day after the approval was given. There is no need for reassessment by the ACAT unless your care needs change.
In the Adelaide metropolitan area contact the Adelaide ACAT, tel.1300 296 738. For ACATs in the country regions, contact Seniors Information Service (SIS), tel. 8168 8776 (SA country callers 1800 636 368).
Are standards of care monitored?
The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (Quality Agency) accredits and monitors care standards in all facilities. Accreditation is the formal recognition that an aged care facility is operating in accordance with the legislative requirements of the Aged Care Act 1997 and is providing high quality care.
Facilities must be accredited by the Quality Agency in order to receive funding from the Australian Government.
Existing aged care facilities are usually awarded three years accreditation if they are performing well.
If a facility fails to meet the Accreditation Standards or other responsibilities under the Act, the home may:
be given time to make the necessary improvements
be approved but for less than the usual three years
be refused accreditation
stop receiving funding from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing
Accreditation Reports are available at the Agency’s website: www.accreditation.org.au/.
How do I make a complaint?
You can complain if you are not satisfied with the service or care provided. The Australian Government’s Aged Care Complaints Scheme deals with complaints and concerns in aged care facilities, tel. 1800 550 552.
You can also contact the Aged Rights Advocacy Service Inc. (ARAS). They can provide information about your rights and an advocate to help you resolve issues, tel. 8232 5377 or 1800 502 030 (country callers).
Commonwealth subsidised residential care facilities are also provided in larger regional centres in country areas.
In some small rural communities funding is provided by both state and Australian governments to enable hospitals/health services to provide aged care. These are called Multipurpose Services.
Some country hospitals also provide Nursing Home Type Places (NHTP) beds.
High or low care may be offered in Multipurpose Services or NHTPs. An ACAT assessment is required and the same standards of care apply. However fees may differ from residential aged care facilities.