Navigating the aged care system can be complex, so it’s best to plan ahead. For help getting started, read our guide to accessing Australia's aged care services.
Plan ahead for aged care
Our ability to live independently can be suddenly compromised, especially as we get older. You never know when an accident or sudden illness could mean you or your partner require assistance to continue living at home, or need to move into residential aged care.
As part of your retirement planning, it’s good to know what aged care services are available and how to access them. That way you'll be better prepared and can stay in control of your future needs.
Your aged care assessment
Australia’s aged care system is designed to support the elderly, either in their own home or a residential aged care facility. Services are available for either the long term or short term, depending on your needs.
The first step is to be assessed by the relevant state service. Your assessment will determine the level of care you require either at home or in residential aged care, and if you're eligible for any government subsidy.
Visit the government’s My Aged Care, opens in new window website for details on assessments in your state.
Once you’ve been assessed, you’ll be allocated a care package level. Your assessor can help you develop a support plan that suits your needs and also tell you about the service providers in your area. My Aged Care has a list of approved service providers, opens in new window.
Your financial assessment
When applying for aged care, you fill out the Combined Income and Assets Assessment, opens in new window form so that the Department of Health Services (DHS) can work out if you're eligible for government subsidised home or residential care. If you are, they’ll calculate your fees and charges.
If you wish to access home care packages and you're eligible, you’ll receive a letter of approval from My Aged Care that sets out the level of home care package and the fee you're approved for.
You’ll also be placed in a national priority queue for home care packages. There may be a waiting period between your approval and the time you're assigned a home care package.
Home care packages provide support to help you stay in your home. Services can include helping you get washed and dressed and help with cleaning, transportation and cooking. You can also have modifications made to your home such as ramps and handrails fitted.
If you have a health setback and want some short-term support to get back on your feet, or your normal carer needs a break, you can also access these services.
Residential aged care
Once approved for residential care, you'll need to choose some residences and apply for a place. You need to consider location, fees and the type of accommodation and facilities when deciding. It can take time so it’s often good to create a shortlist well before you need access to their services.
Aged care residences charge fees to cover accommodation, daily care and living expenses. These include accommodation fee, basic daily fee and a means tested fee to cover your care. There will also be additional user-pay fees for extra services such as pay TV, a larger room, a glass of wine with your meal, additional leisure activities and extra therapy.
If you’re eligible, some of these fees may be subsidised by the government. There are also a range of strategies for paying them, including refundable upfront deposits, regular payments or a combination of both.
Aged care advice
Starting to use aged care assistance is often an emotional and confusing time. The number of providers and payment options can be overwhelming so it’s recommended to seek advice about the best strategy for you.
The government’s My Aged Care website has links to different sources of information about managing your finances, opens in new window and accessing aged care services. We also have some useful information on coping financially with illness.
You may also want to talk to a financial consultant about your retirement income and assets. They can provide advice and guidance to help you maximise your entitlements and minimise your care costs before you need to apply for assessment.
Ready to retire? Learn more about the NAB Retirement Account.
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