Aged Care Challenges in the Home
Aging at home with government-subsidised funding is made possible through the Home Care Packages program.
However, a crackdown on what the funds can be used for and a shortage of support workers, can make it challenging to understand the funding available.
If you are approved for a Home Care Package, you will be assessed at one of four levels. These levels acknowledge the different types of care needed. Approval for a package is determined by a health professional from the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) following an assessment.
Current annual funding for packages is $10,271.10 for level one (someone with basic care needs); $18,063.85 for level two (low care); $39,310.50 for level three (intermediate care); and $59,593.55 for level four (high care).i
It can take up to six months for a Home Care Package to be assigned following the initial assessment. Once assigned, a provider must be chosen to design a package of aged care services that is best and most appropriate for you – within the home care package guidelines.
Providers charge care and package management fees, which were recently capped at a combined 35% of the package funds.
Income tests apply:
The packages are income tested, with part pensioners paying no more than $6,543.66 a year and self-funded retirees paying no more than $13,087.39 a year in fees. Full pensioners do not pay an income tested fee.
An individual’s contribution may not seem like much if you are receiving a high-level package and are using all the allocated funds to buy equipment and services to keep you at home. However, if your income is high and you are therefore required to pay the highest fees, you may be better off paying privately for one or two services.
Older Australians can apply for a package directly, or through their GP, via the government’s My Age Care aged care gateway.
Due to high demand for Home Care Packages, you may be offered a lower-level package while you wait for the one you are approved for. You may also be granted access to entry-level government support, known as the Commonwealth Home Support Program. Here, individual referral codes are allocated to you to access interim support such as cleaning, transport or personal care, at highly subsidised rates.
Describe your worst day:
A good way to ensure approval for the Home Care Package is to describe to the assessor all the challenges faced in carrying out daily activities due to your (or your loved one’s) advancing age.
Key to the process of getting the maximum benefit of a package when it is assigned, is the initial care plan. This is worked out with your provider and outlines your assessed care and service needs, goals and preferences, and details how the care and services are to be delivered.
A revised manual released last year (2023) by the Department of Health clarifying what a Home Care Package can be used for, is presenting additional challenges for some package recipients looking to maximise what they can receive.ii
Generally, a requested support or service must meet an individual’s ‘ageing related functional decline care needs’. The main categories of care and services you can get from a Home Care Package are services to keep you:
– well and independent (nursing, personal care, food),
– safe in your home (home maintenance, goods and equipment) and
– connected to your community (transport and social support).
Exclusions and inclusions:
One area that is becoming more difficult for those with Home Care Packages is gardening – which is one of the most popular subsidised service requests.
Once, a regular prune and possibly some new planting was an approved service. Now, now only minor or light gardening services can be provided, and only where the person was previously able to carry out the activity themselves but can no longer do so safely. For example: maintaining paths through a property or lawn mowing.
Other exclusions causing angst amongst recipients are recliner chairs (unless they support a care recipient’s mobility, dexterity and functional care needs and goals); heating and cooling costs including installation and repairs, as well as white goods and electrical appliances (except items designed specifically to assist with frailty, such as a tipping kettle).
With an aging population it’s no secret that there’s a shortage of support workers. While there are government programs to try and fix this, a back-up plan is needed for when support workers call in sick or are unavailable, and no replacement can be found.
Most people’s preference is to remain living independently at home for as long as possible. If you would like to discuss your options to make this happen, please give us a call.
Government subsidy level for Home Care Packages iii
Aged Care Services for People with
Yearly amount paid by the Australian Government up to approximate* value of
Basic care needs
Low level care needs
Intermediate care needs
High level care needs
Figures are rounded and current as at 1 February 2024. The maximum government contribution increases each year on 1 July.
*** The individual amount paid will depend on whether you are asked to pay an income-tested care fee.
i, iii https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/help-at-home/home-care-packages
Information contained in this document is considered to be true and correct at time of publication. In addition, the information provided is general information only, and does not take into account any individuals’ objectives, financial situation and needs. Before acting on any information contained herein, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice having regard to your personal objectives, financial situation and needs.