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Episode 10 - Accessing Community Aged Care

What are community aged care services and who is eligible to access them?

There is a misconception that only personal care is provided as part of in-home care, but there is a diverse range of services that can help you to remain living independently in your own home. These may include companionship and in-home care, nursing care or allied health support from physios or podiatrists, etc. Home care may include services such as domestic help, laundry, cooking meals, transport to appointments, help with getting dressed or washing and may even include home maintenance and gardening.

Respite care services are also available and can help carers have a break for a limited period of time. Alternatively, you may need support to help recover after a stay in hospital, this is often known as transition care.

Many of these services can be sourced through My Aged Care which offers subsided care for people over the age of 65 or 50 years and older for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. For low-level support such as domestic help, you may be able to receive funding under the Commonwealth Home Support Programme or if you have greater or more complex needs, then funding may be provided under a Home Care Package. Alternatively, you may be able to access these services privately which means you can generally receive the services immediately compared to the lengthy waiting times that many experience when waiting for government-subsidised care.

How do you access the services?

An important starting point in accessing aged care services is to visit My Aged Care. This website contains a large amount of information about the services that are available in your area, and you can also compare different providers. As part of this process, you will need to undergo an assessment to identify if you are eligible to receive subsidised services and determine what level of support you may be able to receive, based on your situation and medical conditions.

There is high demand for subsidised care and it can take several months to progress through the different application and assessment stages so be aware that there may be extended waiting times of around 6 months or more until you receive confirmation of the support you are eligible for. It is important to start this process as soon as you may need assistance. Whilst you are waiting for the subsidised package confirmation, you can also access services privately from many providers.

How do you choose an appropriate provider?

Ultimately, it’s important that you choose a provider that you feel comfortable with and that you can have a good relationship with. Other considerations might include:

  • What services can they provide – can they support your current needs and also support you as your needs change in the future? Can they consistently offer visits at the times and days you want?

  • Do they have a waiting list, particularly for people on a Home Care Package? Can they offer private services to supplement your package or to use before you have received package confirmation?

  • Package management and care management are services provided as part of a Home Care Package. Package management involves completing all relevant paperwork, organising third-party services such as Allied Health services, managing your budget and invoices etc. You need to consider whether you wish to manage your package yourself or use a care provider for this. Care Management must be supplied by all providers of home care packages.

  • It is important to understand the costs of each provider including a basic daily fee, income-tested care fee, whether they charge care management or package management fees, as well as additional costs such as Travel costs. Don’t only use price as an indicator of a quality service.

  • Are they based locally and do they employ local carers? Do they have any carers that speak your language or share your ethnicity?

  • Ensure that they can provide high-quality care; You may want to investigate whether they have had any reports raised by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, investigate whether they have had any Serious Incident Response Scheme reports (SIRS), or if they are a residential home, what is their Star Rating.

  • Identify what initial training and what ongoing training their carers receive. Do their carers receive condition-specific training such as dementia?

  • Understand whether the provider matches their clients to their carers based on their background, interests and hobbies or whether carers are assigned to clients due to their schedule availability?

And remember, when starting to look into care, you don’t have to go through this process alone. There are many organisations who can provide information and guide you through this process so please reach out and ask for help.

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