More commonly called nursing homes, residential aged care facilities are a common option for people who need more intense daily care support and increased healthcare services. The average age of women moving into a nursing home is approximately 85 years, while for men is it 82 years, with approximately 1 in 3 nursing home residents having symptoms of dementia.
This type of accommodation is regulated by the Federal Government, through what many consider bureaucratic and complex processes and systems.
Providers are approved by the government which allocates the number of aged care places (beds) available in each local government area. If the provider is not government approved, then the residents in that nursing home cannot access government funding subsidisation for their accommodation. The government also undertakes compulsory accreditation across each government-approved nursing home, although the rigour and value of that accreditation process is questionable, and has received considerable negative media and advocacy scrutiny in recent times.
Steps to access a Nursing Home
To be able to enter a government approved Home, an older person must undergo an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) assessment, and have their assets and income independently assessed and means tested. The ACAT assessment (which determines the level of daily support and services you require) and means-testing determination will impact on the fees that seniors will need to pay on entry to the home and during their stay.
With a completed ACAT assessment, and means-tested determination regarding assets and income, the older person can then submit their application to various nursing homes (usually across more than one Home, dependent upon waiting list length of time at each).
Once a place becomes available in a preferred Home, then fees have to be paid before the senior can move in.
Based on the mean testing, the person may be required to pay an “accommodation contribution”. The theory behind this (usually large) sum is to enable the Home to maintain and renovate its infrastructure. The maximum amount payment a provider can charge is $550,000 unless special approval is obtained from the government’s Pricing Commissioner.
Once a person is living in a nursing home, ongoing fees may include: a basic daily fee (which can be up to 85% of the aged pension), a means-tested care fee, and “additional services” charges, such as allied health (physiotherapy and occupational therapy), hairdressing services and recreational excursions.
A common way for nursing homes to sell these additional services options is to package and market them into levels, such as Bronze, Silver or Gold packages, each offering increasing levels of additional comfort and services. When considering purchasing any package, you must be able to physically and intellectually benefit from all the services offered as part of that package, otherwise the Home operator should not sell you that package. For example, if a package includes availability of wine and luxury food items, but the senior person is on a restricted diet, they cannot be charged for that full package.
Given the types of assets you own or income you receive, it may be advisable to seek financial planning advice to maximise any government subsidisation you could receive, and minimise your tax liability.
Considering moving into a Nursing Home is a very important life decision, so get the best information you can so you fully understand what you are signing up to.