As you get older or more frail, it is important to consider which of the long term accommodation options will best suit your needs. Options include staying at home, moving into some form of Supported Accommodation or moving into a Residential Aged Care Facility. Each of these options is discussed briefly below.
Staying at Home
To help an older person stay safely in their own home for as long as possible, sometimes it is helpful to rearrange or modify the home. This can be as simple as improving lighting or removing floor rugs, to reduce trip hazards. Other common modifications include installing a handrail in the shower or by the steps, or building a ramp to allow wheelchair access in and out of the home. An Occupational Therapist can come to the home and assess the situation and help arrange these modifications.
A range of in-home support services are available to assist older people to remain living at home. The Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre on 1800 052 222 has the most detailed and up to date information about the services available.
Moving into Supported Accommodation
There are a wide range of supported accommodation options available to people as they get older, such as retirement villages or independent living units. Each offers different benefits to residents and involves different costs.
You can choose to move into a retirement village or independent living unit at any time. Approval by an Aged Care Assessment Team is not required.
Moving into a Residential Aged Care Facility
Residential aged care is available for older people who can no longer live at home or in a supported accommodation environment. This can be offered on either a permanent or short-term basis (eg. respite to allow a carer to go on a holiday). Both low level care and high level care are available. Some facilities are designed specifically to cater for people with unique needs including dementia, cultural and/or religious backgrounds.
‘Low level care’ (previously called hostel care) provides a resident with accommodation, meals and personal care such as help with dressing and showering and occasional nursing care. Other services available include social activities, diversional therapy, and allied health care, for example, physiotherapy.
‘High level care’ (previously called nursing home care) is provided for people who are more frail and need continuous care. In addition to the care provided by low level care, this level of care includes registered nurses, who are on duty 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
If you need to move into high level or low level residential aged care, you will need to be assessed by the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). This may be done by a doctor, nurse, social worker or other health professional from the ACAT. They will discuss your care and health needs and advise you on which care services best meet your needs, either in the community or in an aged care home.
Carers NSW has produced a comprehensive set of Fact Sheets entitled Surviving the Maze which provide information on the practical, emotional and financial aspects of making the move into residential care.
The operators of Residential Aged Care Facilities receive a government subsidy for each resident, based on the level of care they require. All residents pay a Basic Daily Care Fee, at either pensioner or non-pensioner rate. Low-care residents are asked to pay an accommodation bond. Concessions are available for people who cannot afford to pay the accommodation bond.
MyAgedCare (1800 200 422) provides information about Australian Government-funded residential aged care, including the associated fees and charges.