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Your complete guide to aged care in Australia

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Your complete guide to aged care in Australia
Reassuring hand on older person's shoulder
Residential aged care
December 20, 2021
minute read

Everything you need to know to care for yourself and the ones you love

Aged care is an opportunity to make life a little easier, safer and more comfortable. It’s an opportunity to remain independent and to keep our nearest and dearest close by. But if you don’t know what services are available or how to reach out to them, it’s natural to feel anxious about the unknown. We can help you ease that anxiety.

This guide is a primer on Australian aged care. We will explain:

  • What aged care is
  • The myths around aged care, and the reality
  • Aged care quality and elder rights
  • How to pay for aged care

At Medical & Aged Care Group, we believe in going above and beyond to empower older Australians. If you have any questions about aged care, please contact us.

What is aged care?

Aged care is a range of services designed to enable older Australians to live in safety, comfort and health.

Older Australians can choose the form of care they need. With so many services and providers, your strategy can be as intensive or invisible as you like.

There are essentially four major types of aged care services.

  • In-home aged care
  • Residential aged care
  • Short-term or respite care
  • Palliative care

It’s important to know the difference between them; that allows you to make an informed decision about what level of care is appropriate for you.

In-home aged care

In-home aged care allows you to remain living in your home while receiving necessary health and wellbeing services.

You might consider in-home care if you feel that you are still able to live independently, despite needing a helping hand now and again.

In-home care can take the form of ongoing visitations by professionals such as physiotherapists or house cleaners, or cooks. Or, it can take a more intensive form, such as a live-in nurse or specialised medical equipment. Specialists can also be hired for more sensitive care, like helping to bathe you.

The primary benefit of this form of care is maintaining the lifestyle you are accustomed to in the community you know.

Residential aged care

Residential aged care is when you move into a professional elder care facility. These homes are staffed by experienced carers who can provide care at all hours of the day.

It is worth considering moving into a residential care home if you feel that the care you need is either too intensive for in-home service providers.

In a residential home, you can have all of your needs taken care of. Basic needs, such as your laundry, room cleaning and even your meals will be managed. You’ll also have the opportunity to regularly socialise with the other residents as much as you like.

Care homes also provide constant access to personal and medical care professionals. From physiotherapists and podiatrists and personal trainers, to nurses who can manage your medication.

If you’re interested in residential aged care, you may consider the 8 warm, welcoming MACG care homes in Melbourne. A friendly consultation might give you the answers you’re looking for.

Short-term and respite care

Short-term care provides support to restore your independence over a set period of time.

For example, as you recover from a medical issue, you may need extra assistance with day-to-day activities around the house. A short-term care provider can assist you with cooking, cleaning, shopping and maintenance.

Respite care aims to relieve older people and their carers for short periods of time, from hours to weeks.

If your usual in-home carer needed to attend to a personal emergency for a day, or take a holiday for a week, you might access a respite care service to support you during that time.

MACG would be happy to provide short-term and respite care for you at one of our Melbourne homes.

Palliative care

Palliative care seeks to provide total comfort, security and support for those facing chronic or terminal illnesses.

Depending on the nature of the illness and the stage of the individual, palliative care can be provided at home or an aged care residence. Services include end-of-life planning, pain management, emotional and spiritual care and expectation setting. Palliative specialists will also make services and resources available to families and friends.

This is a particularly sensitive form of aged care, and the one likely to spark the greatest anxiety. In the quest to find the best care for vulnerable and terminally ill loved ones, selecting a palliative care provider is a difficult decision.

If you are concerned about palliative care, you should begin having conversations with your loved ones and care providers as soon as possible.

MACG takes a personalised approach to palliative care. The needs, desires and comforts of our clients always come first. Talk to us about creating an ideal palliative care experience.

Fact vs Fiction: What is elderly care like in Australia?

There are endless misconceptions around aged care. With over two decades of experience caring for older Australians, we’ve heard all the myths before.

We suspect many of these myths grow out of the uncertainty that comes with old age. The level of independence you were once comfortable with may change, new healthcare and wellbeing needs will arise, and your emotional, spiritual and communal needs will evolve.

With so much change, many wrongly suspect that accessing aged care will cause them to lose the life they love. Common myths about aged care you may have heard could include:

  • Residential homes are lonely
  • You will lose your independence
  • Providers only offer poor quality food
  • Aged care is dull and unhappy

The truth is that aged care doesn’t take your comfortable lifestyle from you — it empowers you to live life on your terms.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission produced a 2020 report titled ‘What Australians think of ageing and aged care’. This report deals specifically with the perception of care.

One of the key takeaways from this report is that people who had experience with aged care rated it much higher than those who had no experience. Experience, in this case, means either having received care or knowing someone who had.

What does this mean for you? It means that the best way to dispel myths and feel good about your choice is to talk to a care provider.

Aged Care Quality Standards: choosing a safe, reliable provider

Hopefully, you’re a little more familiar with what care can do for you, and trust in its ability to help. Let’s talk about how the aged care industry is regulated.

Understanding the industry regulations will also help you understand your rights as an older person. As you seek our care providers, you will have the knowledge you need to assess them, and make the right decision for yourself or your loved ones.

The Aged Care Quality and Standards Commission has developed eight Aged Care Quality Standards to assess care Government funded providers.

The Quality Standards are:

  1. Consumer dignity and choice
  2. Ongoing assessment and planning
  3. Personal care and clinical care
  4. Services and supports for daily living
  5. Organisation’s service environment
  6. Feedback and complaints
  7. Human resources
  8. Organisational governance

Providers must abide by these standards or risk penalties, and care consumers can lodge complaints to safeguard their rights and wellbeing.

What are the rights of older people in aged care?

The Commission also has a Charter of Aged Care Rights, that lays out the rights of all consumers of Australian Government-funded care providers. Under this charter, older people are entitled to:

  1. Safe and high-quality care and services
  2. Be treated with dignity and respect
  3. Have their identity, culture and diversity values and supported
  4. Live without abuse and neglect
  5. Be informed about their care and services in a way they understand
  6. Access all information about themselves, including information about their rights, care and services
  7. Have control over and make choices about their care, and personal and social life, including where the choices involve personal risk
  8. Have control over, and make decisions about, the personal aspects of my daily life, financial affairs and possessions
  9. Their independence
  10. Be listened to and understood
  11. Have a person of their choice, including an aged care advocate, support them or speak on their behalf
  12. Complain free from reprisal, and to have their complaints dealt with fairly and promptly
  13. Personal privacy and to have their personal information protected
  14. Exercise their rights without adversely affecting the way they are treated

MACG take our Quality Standards extremely seriously, and go the extra mile to ensure our clients live with respect and dignity.

What is an aged care advocate?

An aged care advocate is an individual designated by the aged care consumer to make decisions on their behalf.

Advocates can engage with your service provider on your behalf, inform you of your rights, make key decisions and raise and resolve complaints for you. Every aged care consumer is free to designate their own advocate, you can be from a professional survive, or could be a trusted family member or friend.

You can learn more about advocacy through the Australian Government’s advocacy resources. You can request an advocate from the Older Persons Advocate Network.

How do I pay for aged care?

Budgeting for aged care can be a contentious point for many people seeking care. Fortunately, there are several ways to pay for aged care.

Being aware of the breadth of aged care funding options means you can understand where your financial safety nets are. It will also allow you to pay for your care while still budgeting for a comfortable life.

Let’s look at the common aged care payment options.

Super and savings

You may choose to access the wealth in your superannuation, or your savings.

However, the feasibility of using your savings to pay for aged care depends on how financially well off you are. Many retirees did not begin to make regular super contributions until it became mandatory in 1992.

You may find that funding your aged care solely through your finances may force you to prioritise certain services over others. But for those who are adamant about contributing themselves, it is still worthwhile to make use of Government assistance and provider payment plans.

Refundable Accommodation Deposits (RAD) and Daily Accommodation Payments (DAP)

RADs and DAPs are payment plans used by many residential aged care facilities to pay for their services.

A RAD is a lump sum payment deposited at the beginning of your stay and covers the time you are expected to live in the facility. At the end of your stay, the remaining balance is refunded to your estate. A DAP is an ongoing daily fee, paid as you go.

Many facilities will accept a combination of RAD and DAP payments. You may choose to pay a lump sum with your available funds to cover the time you know you will be at the facility, and then switch to a daily payment down the line.

Government assistance

The Australian government has multiple payment initiatives in place to assist older Australians to afford aged care.

One of these services is the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP). This programme provides funding for most in-home care, such as household chores and transport costs. For more intensive in-home tasks, the Government provides Home Care Packages (HCP). These subsidies would help cover therapies, nursing and assistance with complex impairments.

The Government also provides payment for residential care, which they can pay for in full or in part. However, to access these payments, you will be subjected to an income and assets test. The results of this test will determine the value of their subsidy.

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