Accommodation options

Finding and going through the process of organising your parent or parents into a new form of accommodation can be a time-consuming and draining experience. Living styles and options have expanded and the financial arrangements you will be entering into have become more complex and sophisticated. Here’s an introduction to help de-mystify some of the available choices and the terminology involved.

Retirement villages (also known as Independent living units)

A retirement village is a housing development catering to those over 55 who are fully independent. Both villages and the units in which residents live come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s important to visit each one to get a sense of how it is managed and how it looks.

Units can come with any number of bedrooms, and can be stand-alone or part of a medium- or high-rise complex. There will be some communal areas and communal activities but for the most part, residents live ‘normally’, but within a secure environment where communal spaces are maintained fro them. For more information click here

Financial arrangements can differ for each retirement village and it is important to read the fine print and have every question answered before you make a decision. In general, there are two types of fees:

    1. Maintenance fees
    2. Deferred management fees, where the proprietor of the village will receive a percentage of the resale value of the unit for each year of occupation up to a certain period, usually ten years.

You will need to take out your own contents insurance and always ask about outgoing costs and transfer fees should you decide to move on.

State governments regulate retirement villages, but the type of legal property contract you will enter into will differ from village to village. Some are resident-funded, which means you buy the property outright and all maintenance and upgrade costs are borne by the residents.
Other arrangements can include:

    1. Strata title or unit title
    2. Leasehold
    3. Loan and licence.

Always get expert legal advice to explain the precise terms and conditions and advantages and disadvantages of these different arrangements before signing any contract.

The Retirement Village Association (RVA) is the member-based association for proprietors of retirement villages. The RVA represents 350-plus members and runs an accreditation programme, which aims to set and maintain standards for village environments and practices.

The simplest way to find a retirement village in your chosen area is to look one up in the Yellow Pages and visit it. You can also check the RVA website for their accredited villages. Click here

Serviced apartments (also known as assisted-living units)
Some retirement villages offer serviced apartments, which provide basic services such as laundry, meals and some personal care.

NOTE: Low-level residential care, previously known as hostels (see below) are also known as assisted-living units.

Residential care
The umbrella term for all aged care accommodation. The main types are Supported Residential Services (SRSs), low-level and high-level aged care homes. SRSs receive no direct government funding, low- and high-level homes receive some degree of government funding but may be non-profit or profit-based organisations.

Supported Residential Services (SRS)

SRSs are private businesses that receive no direct government funding and, as such, can set their own fees. An SRS provides accommodation and personal care for anyone who can no longer look after themselves, not just seniors. Personal care usually includes assistance with showering, personal hygiene, toileting, dressing, meals and medication. Some SRSs also provide nursing or allied health services.

There are SRSs in most Australian states. You do not need an aged care assessment to move into an SRS. An assessment by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) is required only when considering entry to a Commonwealth funded hostel or nursing home.

Though not government funded, SRSs are monitored for compliance with relevant legislation by state governments. To find an SRS, look under Homes – Special Accommodation in the Yellow Pages.

Low-level residential aged care
Also known as hostels, these facilities require an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) assessment to determine, among other things, the potential resident’s mobility and care needs.

Low-level care offers help with dressing, eating and bathing as well as support services such as laundry, cooking etc. Nursing care can be given when required, but depending on the individual facility, a person’s level of incontinence and mental acuity can be an issue as to determine suitability for a particular home.

High-level residential aged care
Also called nursing homes, this level of residential care is for those who can no longer look after themselves, whether because of physical restrictions or a dementia-type illness.

High-level care will include in the fees the provision of crutches, incontinence equipment, basic toiletries, medications or short-term oxygen, as well as nursing care. The residential facility can organise access to medical services out of the home.

Extra service homes
Extra-service homes provide additional accommodation benefits for a higher fee than a regular aged care home, for example, larger rooms, more meal selections, etc. The level of nursing care is the same as any other high-level residential facility, the environment and services offered may differ. Most low- and high-level homes also offer additional services such as podiatry and hairdressers for an additional, user pays fee.

Ageing in place
This term refers to aged care homes that offer both high- and low-level care, whereby the person can enter at the low-level but move into the higher level in the same residential aged care facility if necessary.

Costs and fees
SRSs are privately owned and operated and can charge whatever they choose. This is usually a weekly rate, anywhere from $200 to $2000.
Generally, there are two types of fees involved in low and high-level care. Some are dependent on whether you are a pensioner, a part-pensioner or on your income. A new resident will be informed of the absolute maximum amount they will have to pay by the Federal Government’s Department of Health and Ageing.
Generally, charges fall into two categories:

    1. Daily charges

        1. a basic daily fee
        2. an additional income-tested fee, which is a contribution made by those with an income over a certain amount towards their daily fee.
    2. An accommodation charge or bond

        1. a resident may be asked to pay an accommodation charge scaled to their income, unless they have assets of less than a certain amount.
        2. an accommodation bond is paid by those taking up the ‘extra service’ places in high-level homes. The bond you pay acts like an interest-free loan paid to the nursing home, the interest from which must be used to maintain and add to the buildings and services provided. It is refunded when a resident leaves, but there is usually a deduction of an amount that accrues for a maximum of five years. A bond can be paid as a lump sum or in periodic fortnightly or monthly payments.

NOTE: Aged care homes cannot require application fees, donations or administrative fees before entry. If a home asks for a payment before you enter the home as a resident, contact the Aged Care Complaints Resolution Scheme on free call 1800 550 552.

Respite refers to temporary stays in either low- or high-level aged care homes, in order to give home carers a break or because the resident needs timely care for a short period.

ACAT assessment
A person needs to be assessed by an ACAT team before they can enter low- or high-level residential care. Commonwealth Carelink Centres can provide you with information regarding finding the ACAT team nearest you. Call them on 1800 052 222 or click here

Community care (in-home care)
The government also provides subsidies to aged care service providers who offer in-home (also known as ‘Community aged care packages’) to people assessed as in need of low-level care. These services still come at a price set by the companies who offer, for example, housework, meal preparation, personal care and/or companionship. For more information on Community care, click here

Aged care consultants
With the plethora of information and options available now in aged care accommodation, finding the best place for your parent(s) can be a navigational nightmare. There are a number of consultancies which can help you find the best and most appropriate care for your parent(s) and streamline the process, making the whole thing less stressful for everyone. The simplest way to find a consultancy in your area is to search the internet or look in the Yellow Pages for ‘aged care consultants’ or ‘aged care placement services’.

MORE is a Commonwealth Government website which has extensive information on aged care, including frequently asked questions and a ‘find an aged care home’ search engine.

For more information about your options, call the Aged Care Information Line on 1800 500 853.