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Aged Care FAQs

Moving into an aged care home is a major life decision. It can be an emotionally challenging time for you and your family, but thinking ahead about a few key issues may help make the transition easier.

You can apply to as many aged care homes as you like. They should explain any fees and charges that they ask you to pay. The home you choose should include these fees and charges in the agreement they make with you.

It’s a good idea to let family, friends, your GP and bank know you’re moving so they can be prepared too.

How do I access aged care?

If you’re thinking about moving into a federal government subsidised aged care home in Victoria, you’ll need to organise a free assessment with an Aged Care Assessment Service (ACAS).

An ACAS usually includes a doctor, nurse, social worker and/or other health professionals. They’ll help you work out the services you need and assess your eligibility for low-level or high-level care.

They can:

  • tell you about the aged care homes in your area
  • explain the differences between low-level and high-level care
  • determine and approve your eligibility for an aged care home
  • help arrange residential respite care, like short stays in aged care homes, if you need it.

If you’re not eligible for residential care, an ACAS may be able to suggest other options, like home help, to meet your care needs. 

How do I find an aged care home?

When you’ve met with an ACAS and received a letter confirming your eligibility for residential aged care, you can start looking for your future home.

Each home has different kinds of accommodation, care, services and activities. It’s wise to visit several different homes to find one that suits you best. The website www.myagedcare.com.au has a ‘finder’ to help you look for homes in the area you’d like to live and contact them to organise a visit.

Which home is best for me? 

Before you visit, make a list of the types of care you need and the things that are important to you in a home. Involve your carer or family and ask them about their needs, so that they can continue to support you after you move. Take your ACAS letter, because some homes will want to know the level of care you’ve been approved for.

As you visit each home, you may also want to make some notes. What do you like and dislike about it? Do you feel comfortable with the staff and the environment?

Consider how well each home may meet your physical, social and emotional needs:

  • Do you need help with everyday tasks like using the toilet, bathing or moving around your home?
  • What training does the care staff have? Are there registered nurses, enrolled nurses or trained carers? How many care staff are on duty overnight?
  • How does the home ensure residents have some privacy?
  • What are the meal arrangements? Ask about seating, times, menus, visitors, meals in your room and special diets.
  • Can the home meet special needs like a different language and culture, religious observances, pets and access to medical visits?
  • What social and cultural activities are offered? How are they decided? Are residents’ interests considered?
  • How can your family and friends be involved? Can they stay overnight if required?
  • What transport options are available for visiting shops, friends and family?
  • Can the home meet medical needs such as assistance with medication, wound or catheter care?
  • Do you need services like podiatry (foot care), physiotherapy (exercise, mobility, strength and balance) or speech therapy (communicating, swallowing or eating)?
  • What type of care services cannot be provided? How would the home advise you of this?

What is it like to live in an aged care home?

Moving into an aged care home means new surroundings, routines and people. You may have help with many of the everyday tasks that you’ve been used to doing for yourself, and you’ll be able to participate in plenty of social activities.

It’s important to remember that you will still be your own person. As long as your health permits, you can go on holidays, visit friends and come and go as you like.

You will still be able to vote and enjoy other rights as a citizen. You will retain the right to control your finances and possessions.

As a resident of the home, you will have a say in your living arrangements or those of the home in general. You will be expected to respect the rights and needs of other people in the home, as they will be expected to respect yours.

What else do I need to do before moving into an aged care home?

Do you have particular wishes regarding your health, including treatment during a serious illness? It’s important that people who may need to look after you or your affairs, including your aged care home, know about your preferences in advance. This way your wishes can still be respected, should a time come when you can’t make decisions about your health.

One way to do this is to draw up an Advanced Care Directive. This should include your preferred arrangements and instructions regarding medical treatment. You can choose to give this information to your aged care home when you move in.

It’s also important to have a will so your wishes regarding your estate and any other affairs can be carried out. You can give your aged care home the name of the will’s executor so that the information will be available to do things like finalise accounts or repay any money that’s owed to you. You might also have preferences about your funeral, including your choice of funeral director.

What about residential aged care fees and payments - how do they work?

The way some fees and payments are calculated is changing. Your income and assets will now be considered in determining the fees and payments you may be asked to pay. The new arrangements don’t affect the basic daily fee.

You could be asked to pay one or more of the following fees: 

A basic daily fee to cover living costs such as meals, power and laundry. In some cases, this may be the only fee you’re required to pay.

A means-tested care fee, which is an additional contribution towards the cost of care. The Department of Human Services will determine whether you need to pay this fee based on an assessment of your income and assets, and will advise you of the amount.

An accommodation payment. Some people’s accommodation costs are met partly or fully by the federal government, while others need to pay the accommodation price agreed with the aged care home. The Department of Human Services will advise you which scenario applies to you, based on an assessment of your income and assets.

Fees for extra or optional services. Additional fees may apply if you choose a higher standard of accommodation or additional services. These fees and services vary from home to home. Your aged care provider can give you details.

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

You can call My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 to help you estimate the fees and charges you may have to pay towards your residential aged care. Before you call you should have your financial information ready; especially the various forms of income and assets.

When you move into an aged care home, you will negotiate an agreement setting out the fees and charges you will pay. You can apply for financial hardship assistance if you believe you will have difficulty contributing to these costs.

What if I am already in a home? Will the changes affect me?

If you are already receiving aged care services, you will not be charged any more than your service provider can currently charge you. However, it’s sensible to read about the aged care reforms. If you change the kind of service you receive, or you leave and re-enter aged care, then changes stemming from the reforms could apply to you. 

How long can I stay in aged care? 

Once you’re living in an aged care home, your place is secure and you can stay there for as long as the home is able to care for you. However, there may be times when you need to leave—for example, if you need to move from low to high-level care and your current home can’t provide those services, or if you need more nursing support.

Can I go away on holiday? 

Yes. If you want to go on a holiday or visit friends and family, you can leave your aged care home for up to 52 nights in a financial year. These nights are considered ‘social leave’, and the government will continue to pay the relevant subsidies to your aged care home. You’ll still have to pay your daily fees and income tested fees.

If you stay away for more than 52 nights in a financial year, the government will stop paying subsidies and your aged care home may ask you to make up the amount. 

What if I need to go to hospital? 

If you go to hospital, the time away won’t count towards your social leave. The government will continue to pay the relevant subsidies to your aged care home. You’ll still need to pay your daily fees and income tested fees.

Can I move to another aged care home? 

Yes, if another home has offered you a place. This might happen if you’ve accepted a place in a home that wasn’t your first choice, but kept an application open for a home you preferred. Alternatively, perhaps while living in your current home, you find another that is more suitable and applied for a place there.

Can I change rooms? 

You may be satisfied with your aged care home but want to change rooms. The manager of your home must consider your request, even if they can’t offer you another room straight away.

The manager will take into account the overall operation of the home, as well as the terms of your agreement, and let you know if there is another room that might be suitable.

Can the home make me change rooms?

In some cases you could be moved to another room without requesting it if: 

  • it is necessary for medical reasons
  • your room in the home changes to an ‘extra service room’ and you choose not to pay the additional costs
  • you change between low-level and high-level residential care. (For this to happen, you may be assessed by an ACAS or at least two medical or other health practitioners to see whether you would benefit from the change)
  • repairs or improvements are being made to the aged care home, or
  • the home asks you to move beds or rooms and you agree, after you’ve been fully consulted without being pressured. 

Can the home ask me to leave?

An aged care home might ask you to leave if: 

  • they are closing
  • they can’t provide the kind of accommodation and care you need
  • your needs have changed since you first moved in
  • you no longer need the care they provide, or
  • you haven’t paid your fees within 42 days of the due date, for reasons within your control.

You may also be asked to leave if you intentionally cause:

  • serious damage to the aged care home, or
  • serious injury to another person, including employees.

If you do have to move, you should be given 14 days’ written notice. The aged care home should be able to help identify affordable alternative accommodation that better meets your needs.

If I move to another home or leave aged care, what happens with my accommodation bond?

If you permanently leave your first aged care home, you’ll be repaid the balance of any accommodation bond you first paid when you moved in. However, if you’re transferring to a new home, your balance can be directly transferred to that home. The new home can’t ask you to pay a bond higher than the balance of the bond repaid from your previous home.

Who manages my money?

This is your decision. All aged care homes must have a staff member who can help you to make any necessary financial arrangements.

Some homes also provide direct debit services so you can pay bills automatically from your bank account or credit card. You may also be able to have your pension directed to the care home so that your fees and other costs like pharmacy bills can be deducted.

Can I get help to manage my affairs? 

If you need help managing your affairs, you can arrange for someone you trust to look after them for you through a power of attorney. This is a legal document appointing someone else to act on your behalf in money or property matters.

You can also choose to give someone ‘enduring’ power of attorney. This way, if at some time you’re longer able to look after your affairs, someone you trust can look after them for you and try to ensure your wishes are met. This person may also be able to make decisions on your health care. You can specify limits to their powers. 

You can ask your solicitor about giving someone power of attorney or enduring power of attorney. A community legal centre, public trustee or private trustee company, or your local magistrate’s court should also be able to help.

You can also appoint someone to act for you regarding aged care home fees and charges. You’ll need to complete an Appointment of a Nominee form, available from your aged care home.

What about my family, friends or carer? 

Even if you move into an aged care home, your family, friends or carer are still a part of your life. They can speak with the staff at your aged care home about how they can continue to play a role in your care.

Who will help me settle into aged care?

Your aged care home staff are there to help and care for you. Within the first few days after you move in, someone from the home should sit down with you to discuss your needs. If you choose, your family and friends can also be involved. 

How do I plan my care?

Your aged care home will help you develop your care plan. To do this, someone from the home will speak with you, and your family or friends if you choose, to outline your care needs and instructions on how to make sure these are met. This way all the staff know how to best take care of you.

If you already have a care plan that's been developed by a community nurse, allied health professional or your doctor, you can bring that with you.

Can I keep the same doctor and dentist?

You can keep your own doctor and/or dentist. Your aged care home can help you arrange transport to medical appointments. You’ll need to pay for this service. Alternatively, they may be able to arrange for your doctor or dentist to visit you.

If your doctor or dentist can’t visit you, the home should be able to help you choose another health professional. Staff should also be able to help arrange other health care services you might need, like physiotherapy, dental treatment or podiatry.

What about private health insurance? 

If you have private health insurance, it may cover some or all of the costs of being a private patient in either a public or private hospital will be covered. It won’t cover you for a variety of other items not covered by Medicare, such as podiatry. Private health insurance will not cover fees and charges for your aged care home.

What will the food be like in my new home? 

Your aged care home should give you healthy, well-balanced meals with a variety of foods. They’ll also take your health care needs and dietary customs or religious beliefs into account—so let them know what you like or don’t like, and what you can’t have. You can also ask a family member or friend to tell them. 

What social activities do homes provide?

Your aged care home will organise social and other activities. You’re free to participate in as many, or as few, as you wish.

TLC Aged Care’s homes employ experienced leisure and lifestyle staff. Tell them about your hobbies and interests, so the staff can help you continue to enjoy them while you’re living in the home. They might also be able to suggest different things to try—giving you the chance to develop new interests, skills and friendships.

Activities might involve your home’s residents, or people from the community too. You and your family can tell the aged care home which activities interest you, so you can have a say in what’s organised.

What about visitors? 

After you move into an aged care home, your family, friends or carer will still be a part of your life. If you wish, they can speak with the staff about ways they can be involved. 

You will also have opportunities to interact with people from the community, such as through the Community Visitors Scheme (CVS). A CVS coordinator will take into account your interests, hobbies and background to try to find a suitable regular visitor.

If you would like a community visitor, speak to your aged care home staff, or ask your friends and family can let the home know. Your aged care home might take the initiative and approach the CVS themselves.

If you are a veteran, war widow or war widower, or member of the veteran community, you may be able to invite people from ex-service organisations (ESOs) to visit you. To safeguard your privacy, your aged care home won’t provide your details to ESOs—but if you would like someone to visit, you or your family can contact the local branch of the appropriate organisation to make the necessary arrangements.

What if I need to make a complaint? 

It’s best to raise the issue with your aged care home at first. If your concerns are still not resolved, you can contact the Aged Care Complaints Scheme.