Q. What is residential aged care?
Residential aged care also known as ‘aged care homes’ and ‘nursing homes’, provide accommodation, activities, social programs, nursing care, personal care, meals, cleaning and laundry to older people.
Most people make the decision to move into an aged care facility when living at home has become too difficult. This could be due to a number of reasons such loneliness and isolation, challenges with mobility, confusion, physical weakness, or just a desire for a more secure environment.
There are hundreds of aged care facilities from which to choose. They vary in terms of the quality and age of the building, the programs on offer, culture, look and feel, food, clinical systems and even gardens. They also vary in terms of costs for accommodation and care.
When you are ready to consider aged care it is advisable to shop around. Look at each facility and judge how it makes you feel when you walk in. Drop in during a meal or during an activity. Meet some of the staff, watch the interaction between the staff and the residents and families, look at the gardens and the common areas as well as the rooms where you might be living.
Ask to meet the manager and perhaps some other staff. Maybe you could come back a second and a third time just to see how things are on other days. This is where you are going to live and you want to be sure.
After you have decided which aged care facility might be suitable as your new home, you can then seek financial advice from one of the many independent aged care financial advisers. A financial adviser will help you decide how to structure your assets and finances to pay for your aged care. Once you have received your financial advice you can negotiate with the aged care provider to enter into an ‘aged care contract’ for accommodation and care. Remember that all of these rules and systems are strictly governed and monitored by the government.
You may be in a situation where you do not have the time to plan, research and consider your options. For instance, you may be in hospital and have been advised by the hospital staff that you need to move directly into an aged care home and need to find a home as soon as possible. In these instances, you will need the support of family or a social worker to help you find a suitable place. Always remember that if you move into a facility and you don’t like it, you can move on to another aged care facility that is more suitable for you.
Here’s what you need to know:
Before moving into an aged care home you will need to be assessed by an Aged Care Assessment Team, also known as ACAT* in NSW and the ACT. ACAT’s are usually located in hospitals and comprise multidisciplinary team members such geriatricians, nurses, social workers and physiotherapist. ACAT’s can visit you at home or in hospital. The free ACAT assessment determines the level of care and support you require and the options available to you, these may include receiving help at home or in an aged care facility. No aged care facility will be able to offer you care without an aged care assessment.
To book an aged care assessment, you can talk to your doctor and he will arrange it. Another way is to visit or telephone your local hospital and ask to speak with the aged care assessment team. They will then arrange for a time that is suitable to visit you in your home or at your bedside if you happen to be in hospital. Usually the home visits take up to six weeks, while the hospital assessments are done within a week because they are often urgent.
How much does aged care cost?
There are generally two costs to cover in aged care, the cost of ‘daily care’ and the cost of ‘accommodation’.
- Care Costs
Basic Care Fees
These are fairly standard across Australia at roughly $50 per day. Every care recipient must pay these fees. This $50 is not enough to cover the cost of your care. The rest of your care funding is paid by the government directly to the aged care provider, this could be between $70 and $200 per day depending on your care needs.High income earners may be required to pay higher care fees.
Additional Services Fees
These are optional fees, and vary in amounts depending on the service provider and additional services being offered. You may be able to negotiate these fees. They are meant to cover extra items, services and activities that are not covered by the basic government funding or the basic care fees. Items such as higher quality food, extra excursions, access to internet or pay TV and many other items. Additional services charges can vary from $5 per day to more than $100 per day. Many providers choose not to charge additional service fees and limit their aged care choices to what is viable with the limits of the basic care funding.
- Accommodation Costs
Residential Accommodation Deposit (RAD)
This is a fully refundable deposit payable for your accommodation. In simple terms, you are paying for your use of the building. RADs vary in size depending on how new or well-appointed the building is. RADs vary from $70,000 to over $1million. In Sydney and Canberra, most RADs are between $350,000 and $650,000. When you are discharged from the facility, the law stipulates that the deposit must be refunded in full within a specific time frame. You can negotiate the RAD with your provider. They may or may not be willing or able to negotiate. Many people choose aged care facilities according to the amount they can pay for a RAD. Some people qualify as concessional. This means they do not have to pay a RAD. Instead, the government will pay a subsidy to the provider on their behalf. To find out if you qualify as concessional, you need to get a Centrelink assessment. In fact, everybody needs to get a Centrelink assessment to access aged care. If you choose not to get a Centrelink assessment you may be charged at a higher rate for both your accommodation fees and your care fees.
Daily Accommodation Payment (DAP)
If you must pay a residential accommodation deposit, you may choose not to pay the full deposit and instead, to pay daily interest in lieu of the deposit. The interest rate is set by the government every quarter. You can also choose to pay part of the RAD and the balance as a Daily Interest Payment DAP.If this sounds very complicated, you are not alone. That is why it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of an aged care financial expert to advise you on how to best structure your finances, and which types of payments are best for you. You should seek this advice before entering aged care.