Residential Aged Care Homes

Frail older people who can no longer be assisted to live at home may seek to live in a residential aged care home.

These homes provide accommodation and a range of services including 24 hour staffing, meals, laundry and cleaning services, furnishings, furniture and equipment. Some homes will provide additional services (such as hairdressing) for a fee or they may offer ‘extra services’ with a higher standard of accommodation and food for an additional charge.

Most homes are in the private sector (such as charitable and religious groups and private organisations) and receive Australian Government funding. They are also regulated by the Australian Government.

You need to be assessed as eligible by an ACAT (see above) before you can enter a federally subsidised aged care home.

Low level care is that which was formerly provided by ‘hostels’ and high level care by ‘nursing homes’. The essential difference is that hostels provide only some level of nursing care while nursing homes provide 24-hour nursing care. Some homes provide only low level care and some only high level, while many now provide both so that you can ‘age in place’. If you enter a home that specialises in low level care you may have to move to a high level home if you become more frail.

High level care is usually 24-hour nursing care combined with accommodation, support services (cleaning, laundry and meals), personal care services (help with dressing, eating, toileting, bathing and moving around) and allied health services (physiotherapy, occupational therapy, recreational therapy and podiatry).

Low level care combines accommodation and an emphasises on personal care services. Low level care services also provide support services and some allied health services. Low level aged care homes generally have nurses on staff or easy access to them.

More information on residential care services. The links from that page include a list of all homes throughout Australia.

You can also check the List of Aged Care Homes With Extra Service.

Aged Care Network is a comprehensive and informative online resource which can help you locate certified providers of high and low residential aged care in your preferred area in Australia.

Help in finding a home is also available from Commonwealth Carelink Centres, ACATs, family doctor and social workers.

The booklet 5 steps to Entry into Residential Aged Care provides information needed for the decisions you will have to make in the process of entering an aged care home. It will help the individual, a carer or family and friends to understand what residential aged care is, why you might want or need it, and how to go about arranging it. It is available online or from the Aged and Community Care Information Line on 1800 500 853.

Application Form
Applicants for residential aged care usually complete an application form. There are several forms in use but an Application for Respite Care or Permament Entry to Aged Care Homes can be used Australia-wide and only has to be completed once. Download the form.

Homes may be government funded hostels, standard nursing homes, ‘extra service’ nursing homes and the private sector. The costs are structured differently in each sector. Whether you are a pensioner, part-pensioner, blind pensioner or non-pensioner will affect the payment.

  • Daily care feesare the same whether you are a resident in a low level or high level care home. These fees have two components:

    • Basic daily care fees are based on the pension and are indexed.
    • Income tested daily care fees for residents with a higher income. Part-pensioners and non-pensioners may be required to pay an additional income tested fee. The assessment is done by Centrelink or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Details here.

  • Accommodation payments.

    • Accommodation bond. You may be asked to pay an accommodation bond if you enter hostel care. It can also apply in a low level or high level home offering ‘extra service.’ In effect, the bond is an interest free loan to the home and most is refunded to the person or their estate when they leave. If you can’t afford it then you won’t be asked to pay it. The bond is treated as an asset by Centrelink and DVA pension assets tests.More information on Accommodation Bonds.
    • Accommodation charge. A high level care home may require payment of an asset-tested accommodation charge. It can apply for a maximum of five years. If you pay an accommodation bond to a home you cannot also be asked to pay an accommodation charge. More information on The Accommodation Charge.
    • Concessional and assisted residents. If you cannot afford to pay the accommodation bond or accommodation charge you may be eligible to be a concessional or assisted resident. All providers must take a minimum number of concessional and assisted residents and they receive extra Australian Government payment for these residents. Concessional residents include means-tested pensioners who have not owned their own home in the past two years and who have assets of less than two-and-a-half times the annual single basic age pension. Assisted residents must meet the same criteria as concessional residents but can have assets of more than two-and-a-half times and less than four times the annual single basic age pension. There are also Hardship Provisions for people who would face genuine hardship if they were to pay an accommodation charge.

    More information on care fees, or contact the Aged and Community Care Information Line: Freecall 1800 500 853.

  • Veterans and war widow(er)s. Go to this Department of Health and Ageing information sheet for information on care fees applicable to veterans and war widow(er)s.
  • Extra service fee. If you are in a home with ‘extra services’ there will be an additional fee. The amount must be specified on the contract which you sign before taking up residence.
  • Respite Care. If you enter a residential aged care home for a short respite there will be a daily fee but there are no accommodation payments.
  • Rent Assistance. You may be able to offset some costs with Rent Assistance. It can be paid if the home you are living in does receive a subsidy from the government for your care costs.

Complaints and Advocacy
The Aged Care Complaints Resolution Scheme is a free service which deals with complaints about Commonwealth funded community and residential aged care services. Check their website to find out what you can complain about and the processes involved.
For more information visit, The Office of the Commissioner For Complaints
Alternatively phone the Aged Care Complaints Resolution Line: Freecall 1800 550 552

If you are concerned about the way your complaint is being handled you can contact the Office of the Commissioner for Complaints: Freecall 1800 500 294

State and territory government departments also have procedures for complaints about aged care services.

An advocate is someone who stands beside you and works and speaks solely on your behalf, and at your direction. There are advocacy services in all states and territories. See the list with contact information on our Dispute Resolution and Advocacy page.

Community Visitors Scheme
The CVS provides a regular friendly visiting scheme for people in aged care homes who are isolated or lonely. Funded by the Australian Government, community-based organisations operate the Scheme in all States and Territories. Staff in aged care homes can assist in putting residents in contact with a visitor. If you wish to be a volunteer visitor or you know someone who would benefit from a visit, contact your local Commonwealth Carelink Centre, Freecall 1800 052 222.
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