Aged care

Options and levels of care

If you are looking for aged care services for yourself or for a family member there are a lot of things to consider and options to explore. Here we explain the different types of aged care services available and how to work out what they might cost.

Where to start

Getting help at home

Most people want to stay in their own home for as long as possible. Sometimes family and friends are able to help with things like shopping, cooking and transport so you can stay in your home longer.

The Government also provides subsidised home care that can help with these everyday tasks as well as personal care, meal services and nursing care. To find out more visit My Aged Care: Help at home.

Steps to take

If you think you or a loved one need help at home or need to move to a care facility here are the steps you should take:

  • Arrange an Aged Care Assessment - This will determine the level of care required and help you find appropriate programs and facilities. See My Aged Care: ACAT assessment.
  • Contact My Aged Care for advice - Call the My Aged Care Contact Centre on 1800 200 422 or visit the My Aged Care website to find out what services are available, how you get into them and the costs.

  • Find a service provider - You can find details of different service providers at My Aged Care: Find a service.
  • Assess your finances - You'll need to know the value of your home and other assets and income to work out your care fees and/or refundable accommodation payment. A Department of Human Services Financial Information Service officer can give you basic information about managing your finances during your transition to aged care. You may also want to get some financial advice to maximise your entitlements and minimise your costs. 

Types of care and costs

The Australian Government subsidises a range of aged care services in Australia, however, you will be expected to contribute to the cost of your care if you can afford to.

The following options are available.

Commonwealth Home Support Programme

The Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) provides entry-level home support for older people who need assistance to keep living independently at home within their community.

The CHSP brings together four programs:

  • Commonwealth Home and Community Care (HACC) Program
  • Planned respite from the National Respite for Carers Program (NRCP)
  • Day Therapy Centres (DTC) Program
  • Assistance with Care and Housing for the Aged (ACHA) Program

Those who can afford to contribute to the cost of their care will be required to do so, however services are still available for those who can't afford to pay. Your contribution will be discussed and agreed with the service provider before you receive any services.

Home care packages

Home care packages help older Australians stay in their home by providing help with things such as, cleaning, meals, transport, personal care and nursing care.

There are four levels of packages available. You will need an ACAT assessment to determine your eligibility and package level.

Home care recipients may be asked to pay a basic daily care fee and/or an income-tested care fee.  The basic daily care fee can be up to 17.5% of the single basic Age pension. The income-tested care fee will be assessed by the Department of Human Services (DHS) and is based on your financial situation. A schedule of fees and charges can be found on the Department of Social Services (DSS) website.

After hospital (transition) care

This is short-term care for people who have been in hospital and need help with their recovery, or time to make a decision about the best long-term care options.

Transition care can be provided in your own home, in an aged care home or in other health facility. Services include low-intensity therapy, access to a social worker, nursing support for clinical care and personal care.

The costs of transition care will be agreed with your service provider before services are provided and may include a daily care fee.

Respite care

Respite care is a form of support for you and your regular carer. It allows you to get the care you need if your carer needs time to attend to their needs or take a holiday.

Respite can be for a few hours, a few days, or for longer periods depending on the needs of you and your carer. Respite care can be provided in your home or in another care facility.

Costs will vary depending on the type of care you need and your personal financial circumstances. In-home services are often charged on an hourly rate. Day care centres and residential facilities have different charge arrangements which you can find out from your local service provider.

Residential aged care

This type of care is for people who need more help with day-to-day tasks or health care. Residential care provides help with cleaning, cooking, washing, personal care and nursing care. It includes permanent and respite care.

Costs include:

  • A basic daily fee payable by all residents, capped at 85% of the single person basic Age pension.
  • A means-tested care fee which may be payable based on an assessment of your income and assets.
  • A full or partial accommodation payment depending on your level of income and assets.
  • Fees for additional services such as a higher standard of accommodation and non-standard services.

The total cost will be different for each resident, based on their ability to pay. To get an idea of costs based on your personal circumstances, use the My Aged Care residential care fee estimator.

Most facilities are required to offer a certain number of places for people who can't afford to pay accommodation costs.

Selling the family home to pay for care

The decision on whether or not to sell the family home to enter a facility will depend on your personal circumstances and what you have negotiated with the aged care home you want to move to.

Your home is generally counted as an asset unless:

  • Your partner or dependent child lives there
  • A carer who is eligible for an Australian Government income support payment has been living there for at least 2 years, or
  • A close relative who is eligible for an Australian Government income support payment has been living there for at least 5 years

Find out more details at My Aged Care: Assets assessments.

If you don't want to sell your home but are being asked to pay a refundable accommodation payment, the care provider may allow you to make a periodic payment instead.

If you move into a residential care facility without selling your home, it will be exempt from the age pension assets test for 2 years from the date you move into care. The start date for the 2 year exemption may vary if you are, or were, a member of a couple at the time you moved into aged care. For more information call the Department of Human Services on 132 300.

A lump sum refundable accommodation payment paid to a provider is exempt from the age pension assets test.

Renting out the family home to pay for care

If you rent your home to pay for periodic payments, the value of your home will be exempt from the age pension assets test, and the rental income will be exempt from the age pension income test, while you are making periodic payments.

From 1 January 2016, new entrants to residential care will have their net rental income from their former home assessed under the aged care means test. Anyone who has entered an aged care facility before this date will not be affected by the change.

If your long-term care needs are changing, find out what care options are available and choose a service that suits your needs.

Related links

Last updated: 07 Aug 2016