Home care packages explained

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

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