Understanding home care packages so you can access them when needed

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Older Australians have low confidence when accessing and using home care packages.

A recent Monash University and Benetas study revealed that older people, who have access to essential health and wellbeing services through the home care package program, find it largely confusing and unclear, which makes them less willing to use all the support at their disposal.

Monash University associate professor Dr Catherine Joyce said that rectifying consumer confidence was key to older Australians proactively using home care services.

“In many ways the findings are not surprising. The government subsidised home care package system is incredibly complex and getting clear information during the application and allocation process is not easy,” Dr Joyce said.

“This is affecting many in our community. At 43 per cent, there are approximately one in two older Australians who had been allocated home care packages who aren’t accessing the available services.

“This is resulting in an estimated $1 billion in unspent home care funds in March this year.

“That is $1 billion that the government had allocated to older Australians to improve their health and quality of life, and to support them to age safely in their own home, that simply wasn’t used.

“While the study found that patterns of behaviour meant there would always be some level of unspent funds, this figure is drastically too high and indicates a significant need to focus on building consumer confidence.”

What kinds or services are available?
Home care packages are all about helping older Australians stay in their home for longer.

The aged care royal commission heard recently that 19 per cent of Australians over 80 are moved out of their home and into residential aged care, which is the highest proportion in the developed world.

Help at home covers everything from help with shopping and cooking to receiving personal care to bathe, dress and get in and out of bed. There are also options for modifications to be made to your house to improve your safety and movement.

Here are just some of the services available in home care packages:

  • meal and other food services (meal delivery or assistance with food preparation)
  • personal care services (eg, bathing, taking medication, getting in and out of bed)
  • nursing care services
  • therapeutic services (podiatry, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, etc)
  • domestic assistance (house cleaning, clothes washing and ironing, shopping, etc)
  • home maintenance
  • home modification (grab rails, ramps, accessible bathroom redesign, etc)
  • transport services (driver service or travel vouchers and subsidies).

Eligibility requirements
You may be eligible for government-subsidised home care services if you have:

  • noticed a change in what you can do or remember
  • been diagnosed with a medical condition or reduced mobility
  • experienced a change in family care arrangements
  • experienced a recent fall or hospital admission.

The easiest way to check your eligibility is to use the eligibility checker on the myagedcare.gov.au website.

The website will assess how much assistance you need with everyday tasks and also check your age requirements for eligibility before committing to applying for an assessment.

If the eligibility checker gives you the good news, you can fill out your application online.

To complete the application, you will need your Medicare card or, if you are filling out the application for someone else, you will need their Medicare card.

After you submit your form, an assessor will contact you within three weeks to arrange a face-to-face assessment.

The face-to-face assessment
There are two types of assessment that work out your care needs and what types of care you may be eligible for. These are a home support assessment with a Regional Assessment Service (RAS) or a comprehensive assessment with an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT).

The RAS is for people who are judged to only need low-level support to stay independent in their home.

If your needs are judged to be greater than what the Commonwealth Home Support Programme can support, you will have an ACAT assessment for home care packages.

For any face-to-face assessment, you should:

  • have your Medicare card and one other form of ID proof – such as DVA card, driver’s licence, healthcare card, or passport 
  • have a copy of any referrals from your doctor
  • consider if you would like a support person present
  • have any information you already have about aged care services that you may want to discuss
  • have contact details for your GP or other health professionals
  • consider if you need special assistance to communicate, such as a translator or Auslan interpreter
  • have information on any support you receive.

The assessor will talk to you about your needs and work with you to develop a support plan. There may still be further paperwork to fill out as the interview progresses.

For Commonwealth Home Support Programme services, you will usually find out if you re eligible at your face-to-face assessment.

For home care packages, your assessor will need some time before they make a recommendation to a representative who will decide on your outcome. You or your representative will receive a letter to let you know if you’re eligible for services, which is usually sent within two weeks of the assessment being completed.

Do you, or a loved one, receive home care packages of some sort? How easy did you find it to navigate the system?

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Written by Ben


Total Comments: 11
  1. 0

    The system is a mess and can be more costly than organising your own support where appropriate. In our case my wife currently accesses 5 hours of home support through the introductory CHSP program. We supplement this with another 6 hours per week of specialised support that we pay for in order to get the specific targeted services that my wife needs. My wife has been approved for a Level 4 Package and is on the inactive waiting list. Seemingly we would be better off with this package. However we don’t require any modifications done to our home as we have already done what was necessary. Out of the $52,000 Level 4 package we would have to pay a local provider at least a 15% management fee, about $8,000 and they would decide what services my wife requires, not us. As well, as we have some personal assets, we would have to pay a co contribution back to the government, probably about $14,000. Thus we would effectively lose about $22,000 from the package, leaving $30,000 for our use. As we don’t currently pay anywhere near $22,000 using current SHSP/private funding we are actually better off sticking to our current arrangements and not accepting a Level 4 Package. Then there’s the issue of Centrelink if you take a Package …. to be avoided at all costs, as far as I am concerned.

  2. 0

    Some of your comments are incorrect. I have a level 4 package. I fall a lot. I have several chronic illnesses. Although I have saved money from my package to remove the lip from my shower, my provider, and the government won’t allow it even though recommended by physio, OT, and doctors. So is that going to keep me at home????? Or will I fall and take one of their staff members with me when I do fall? What is the point in having this in place to keep people in their home, when they won’t do something so simple that will ensure further safety for me and their staff? Especially when I have saved the money within my Level 4 package. It is just No, No, No – we don’t do accessible bathroom redesign. This is a simple design of removing the lip, and making the shower the same size, but more accessible. The architect came out, will cost $25,000 but they won’t do it.

    • 0

      Several years ago when we needed a wet bathroom for my wife I got a quote from the firm that does most of the work for aged care providers in our area. $16,000+ and not what we wanted. Safety rails in incorrect places and floor design not the best. Did most of the work myself and subbied out the rest, total cost $6,000 and it works! My approach and design would never have been permitted if we were funding it through a package, so I understand your problem exactly. Until the end user gains control of the money nothing will change and we will continue to end up with less than we could have had for much more money spent.

  3. 0

    I had a worker from My Aged Care tell.me the system is broken and needs urgent repair. I have been consistently unable to access services, despite meeting criteria. Was left high and dry with no support after foot surgery, living alone with no family. As a result my feet feet did not heal correctly, but I don’t wish to have surgery again. .ore funding needed. And better administration. Listen to us. We know what we need.

  4. 0

    Absolutely ridiculous system. When we had a package, after some time, we had built up funds within our package but it was not allowed to be used for more services which we required. Instead, we were told we were to use the money for some sort of household item. If we did not use the money for this purpose it would be lost to us. Stupid!

  5. 0

    Are there any good comments regarding Aged Care
    Packages? I’m waiting approval for Level Two.
    Also, what’s involved with Centrelink?

    • 0

      Yes. Tips are
      self manage your package,
      Be annoying until you get carers or gardeners or people you have something in common with.
      Outsource to another agency if necessary (providers do not tell you this preferring youtousergere staff
      Any queries email ERA , mediation advisors who are excellent
      Do not go private group but not for profit
      And complain in writing if not happy.

      We have had some awesome caring compassionate carers but only after trying many and saying no.
      The package is client based, not provider based. Most don’t match carers with client as no time, persist and outsource.

      There are lots of good things from having package but best if self managed. You save Monet as if provider buys something it is immediately marked up, however if you pay for it, get tax invoice and email you ought be reimbursed within a week.

      Remember many personal carers have minimal qualifications, are in the job for money only, they don’t care, but then there are the gems who go over and above,as in all areas.

      I request disability workers as higher qualified.

      It is worth it, difficult initially but once you have workers you get on with,who are good fit with you, keep them. Recommend finding 2 or3 in case one goes on leave.

  6. 0

    Although I consider myself educated and computer literate the Aged Care Packages are very hard to work out. Thanks to your write-up I was guided straight to the Aged care site then it went downhill from there? So much reading that made little sense then on to the next page? then the next page and so it goes on. Now wonder the government has so much unclaimed/unused funding. At 85, living on my own with a serious heart problem it is not worth the difficult on applying for help, although I qualify? Then, like ‘Buggsie’ – There is Centrelink? to hurdle. I feel seriously sorry for other aged persons that are not computer literate?

  7. 0

    Article does not articulate all benefits, just outlines the basic. Can you claim a new TV ? A detailed list would have been better. There are many seniors with balances in excess of §20,000 being told they are unable to purchase items that are breaking down and need replacing.



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