Differences between home care and residential aged care

A group of older Australians enjoying breakfast at a residential home.

Aged care is a system of supports for older people either in their own home, or in an aged care (nursing) home. It can include help with everyday living, including cooking and cleaning; health care; specialised accommodation; and equipment to keep you mobile, such as walking frames or ramps. Aged care is Government-funded for eligible people.

Find out more about aged care and if you need it.

Home care vs residential aged care

To help you decide what type of care you need, it’s important to understand the differences between the two.

Home care

Home care aims to help you live independently in your own home for as long as possible. To achieve this, you’ll have access to support services including:

  • Healthcare, such as nursing, physiotherapy and other allied healthcare
  • Personal care – for example, dressing and showering
  • Transport
  • Housework
  • Food and shopping, including meal preparation
  • Social support to help you stay connected with the people and things you love
  • Modifications to your home.

The government will fully cover or subsidise the cost of these services, depending on your income. There are currently two government funded programs that deliver home-based support – the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) for basic level support and the Home Care Package (HCP) for those with higher level of care needs. The Australian Department of Health has plans to merge these two programs into a single program called the Support at Home program, in the coming year or two.

Find out more about how to access funding for aged care.

You can also pay privately for these services by finding Independent Support Workers through Mable.

Residential care

Residential care is for people who need a higher level of care to meet their health and personal care needs, that might not be able to be provided in the home. Where the person receives care becomes their new residence, hence the term residential care. Residential aged care homes are often called ‘residential aged care facilities’ or ‘nursing homes’. In some places they are called ‘assisted living facilities’. The government subsidises the cost of residential aged care, depending on how your needs are assessed. Learn more about how funding for residential care works.

How do I decide between home care vs residential care?

Your decision depends on what your support needs are. For instance, you might be living in a safe and easy environment (e.g. a lift in your building that makes it easy for you to go to the shops or a bathroom fitted with support to make it easy to use it). On the other hand, you might live in an environment that is harder for you to navigate (for example, a bathroom with slippery floors that can increase the risk of fall) or you have complex care needs that cannot be received if you live in, say, a remote region.

Simply put, whether the best option for you is home care or residential care depends on the aged care assessment (ACAT).

Things to consider:

What is the type of support you need?

Can you live independently with a little support (such as meal preparation, personal care, etc.)? Or do you need higher-level, more complex care?

Is living at home a priority for you?

More and more Australians are choosing to continue living at home for as long as possible. If living at home is a priority for you, home care is a better alternative, considering the level of your support needs. Modifying your home may help you live well while receiving the necessary care. Again, your ACAT assessment will help you understand if you can receive the support you need through a Home Care Package or if a residential aged care facility will suit your needs better.

Your financial situation

Your finances will be a factor in your decision. Home care services require a basic daily fee and an income-tested care fee, while residential care will involve those and accommodation costs.


There is no difference – both terms mean a home where older Australians receive round-the-clock care.

Talking to your loved ones is a great first step. You can also get advice from the Aged Care Assessment Team/Service (ACAT/S) when they meet with you to assess your needs. Before your assessment, think about what your goals are – for example, is staying at home a priority for you? That will help you get the best guidance.

Residential aged care facilities determine their own costs. In general, however, you’ll be paying a basic daily fee, accommodation costs and means-tested care fee. You can get more details here.

Usually if you are eligible for Level 3 or 4 on the HCP, you’ll be eligible for residential aged care (but you’ll need another assessment to determine this). Note that you can still choose to live at home, even if you have high-level care needs, but only the assessment will decide if you can do so.

The first step is to get the assessment to know what level of support you’re eligible for. People with complex care needs may be eligible for both residential aged care and a high level HCP.

If you choose to continue living at home through a Home Care Package, you can do so provided your situation enables it. Once your home care package is approved, you will be put on a national waitlist. You need to search for a home care package provider to manage your HCP. If you decide to self-manage your home care package, you can find a self-management approved provider through Mable to start finding support on the platform.

Learn more about home care packageschoosing a providerhow to self-manage your home care package and finding support through Mable while self-managing an HCP.

Mable helps you connect with Independent Support Workers in your area. You can choose the support workers and services you want, when you want, and how much you want to pay. Find out how.