Aged care in Australia - an overview
Older people in Australia in need of care and assistance have a range of options available to them both in the form of residential and home-based care.
Aged care is provided by not-for-profit (religious, charitable and community groups), private sector operators and governments. The not-for-profit sector provides approximately 65% of the county's residential aged care services, with the balance provided by the private sector and governments.
Over recent years, there has been a gradual move away from residential care, in line with the preferences of older people and increasing government support for the provision of home-based care.
To be eligible to move into an approved aged care facility, an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) assessment is required. An ACAT may include a doctor, nurse, social worker or other allied health professional. During an assessment, ACAT considers a range of factors that include a person's medical and psychological health and ability to manage activities of daily living in the context of individual social circumstances.
There are two levels of residential care; high care (previously known as nursing home) and low care (previously known as hostel). High level care provides 24 hour nursing care, personal care, meals, laundry and cleaning. Low level care does not include the provision of nursing care.
Government finance and resident contribution
Residential aged care is financed by the Commonwealth Government. Government funding is based on a need-based classification model, the Resident Classification Scale (RCS). RCS is divided into eight categories of care needs, with one being the highest. Government funding for each resident is determined by the RCS - assessed by an ACAT and the resident's financial status.
Resident contribution to care cost is a modest proportion of actual cost, made up of the accommodation bond, where applicable and the daily fees. For more information about fees, please visit the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing website.
Community care can include home-delivered meals, transport, domestic help, intensive care packages with home nursing and day centre activities.
Community-based care programs are jointly funded and administered by the Commonwealth, states and territories. Care recipients usually pay a contribution towards the cost, depending on ability to pay. Community care options include Home and Community Care (HACC); Community Aged Care Packages (CACPs); Extended Aged Care at Home (EACH) Packages; Veteran's Home Care; and assistance provided by Day Therapy Centres (DTCs).
HACC is designed to assist older people to remain living at home independently
as long as possible and to avoid early admission to residential care facilities.
HACC can deliver a wide range of services that may include home modifications,
counselling, domestic help, transport and allied health care.
A CACP is an set of coordinated services for people with complex low level care needs.
The EACH package is designed to assist people in need of high level care
to remain living in their home. A special care arrangement, the Extended Aged
Care at Home Dementia (EACH D) package is available to assist people with
The Veteran's Home Care program, managed by the Department of veterans' Affairs, is similar to HACC.
An ACAT assessment and approval is required before a person can access Community Aged Care Packages (CACPs) and Extended Aged Care at Home (EACH) Packages.
ACAT assessments are provided free of charge. Potential residents can be referred to ACAT by their general practitioner or other health professionals or request an assessment direct. The Commonwealth Carelink Centres can provide details of the nearest ACAT on 1800 052 222. Alternatively, search for an ACAT near you.
Special care for culturally and linguistically diverse groups
Indigenous people make up two percent of Australia's population. Indigenous groups are increasingly independent and provide culturally appropriate aged care services for their older members.
22% of the Australia's population was born in other countries. The proportion of older people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds is growing as a result of ageing of the migrant groups settling in Australia around the middle of the 19th century.
There is a growing number of culture-specific facilities servicing the needs of these groups. They are mostly owned and managed by language, nationality and religion-based not-for-profit welfare organisations.
Some residential aged care facilities offer 'extra services' in the form of a higher standard of accommodation and a wider selection of food and services. Residents enjoying these services pay an additional daily fee and accommodation bond.
Regulation and accreditation
To be eligible for continued Government funding, nursing homes and hostels
are assessed against a list of standards by the Aged
Care Standards and Accreditation Agency Ltd. The Aged Care Standards and
Accreditation Agency Ltd is an independent body appointed by the Department
of Health and Ageing. The agency observes the processes and principles set
down in the the Aged Care Act 1997, the Accountability Principles
1998, and the Accreditation Grant Principles 1999. These can
be found at the Australian Government Attorney-General's Department ComLaw (Commonwealth Law) website.
The standards relate to nursing and personal care, activities programs, resident safety, the physical environment, management, and policies and procedures amongst others. Aged care facilities are accredited if they meet the required standards.
Accreditation is usually carried out every three years - more often if a facility is required to deliver improvements in certain areas. The accreditation process includes interviews with some of the residents and family members.
The Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency can be contacted by prospective residents and carers in relation to a facility's accreditation status.
Useful resource and telephone number
5 steps to Entry into Residential Aged Care booklet can be downloaded from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing website or ordered through the Aged and Community Care Information Line on 1800 500 853.