It’s perfectly natural to need a little more help around the home as you get older. Tasks may have become more tiring or physically demanding, you can’t lift the heavy laundry basket like you used to and you don’t want to be out in the sun mowing the lawn.
Fortunately, the Australian Government provides funding for a range of support services that help people to remain independent in their own home for longer. It’s called My Aged Care.
Who is eligible for My Aged Care?
The fundamental eligibility for My Aged Care is to be aged 65 or older (or 50 years or older for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people). The next criteria is the need for assistance with some everyday tasks.
Your GP or another healthcare professional may identify that you need some extra help, or a family member or other loved one may start the ball rolling and make some enquiries. It’s important to remember that there is no shame in asking for help. In fact, receiving funding from the government to help pay for this extra help could make a huge difference in whether you can remain at home or alternatively, need to be admitted to an aged care home or other ageing persons facility. My Aged Care is there for you, to help you continue to live the life you want.
What are the steps involved in applying for and commencing My Aged Care?
There are four basic steps involved in your journey to receiving My Aged Care benefits.
STEP 1: Explore what kind of care is available
- Help at home – You might just need help around staying well and independent, with support to keep you living independently in your own, familiar surroundings. This could include some cleaning, personal care, meal preparation and one or two allied health/therapy services. You might even benefit from a regular visit from a home nurse.
- Short-term care – After surgery, you would usually need extra assistance. Also, you might like to start exploring getting support for a short while, to see how you feel about it. And if your support mainly comes from loved ones and they need to be away for a little while such as on holidays, short-term respite care is the answer.
- Aged care homes – If you have high needs that involve care around the clock, aged care homes may be more suitable for you.
All of these types of care are acceptable as reasons to apply for My Aged Care.
STEP 2: Get assessed for your aged care needs
In order to apply for My Aged Care, you have to have a face-to-face assessment. Call 1800 200 422 to make a booking or you can apply online. It will be determined whether you need a ‘home support assessment with a Regional Assessment Service (RAS)’ for lower-level support, or a ‘comprehensive assessment with an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT)’ for higher needs.
Assessments are done at your home and there is nothing for you to be nervous or anxious about. You can even have a support worker such as a friend or family member there with you. You’ll be asked to show your Medicare card and one other form of ID such as a driver’s license, passport, healthcare card or DVA card. Be ready with questions you’d like to ask and have your GP or other referral handy.
During the assessment, the assessor will ask you about your needs and will fill in a form. They will work with you to develop a support plan that works for you.
Important note! How long does it take to be approved?
(Act sooner, rather than later.)
You can usually secure an assessment appointment within a few days or weeks. Once you have been assessed as eligible for a Level 1 Home Care Package and received a letter of approval, the wait time before the package commences and you start receiving services can be 3-6 months. If you’ve been assessed as eligible for a Level 2, 3 or 4 Home Care Package, your wait time could be twelve months or longer. This information should not discourage you from applying. Instead, it should motivate you to apply sooner!
STEP 3: Find a support provider
Be aware that you can find a support provider at any time, even before you are informed of your eligibility for a Home Care Package (HCP). It does mean that you have to pay fully out of pocket but once your HCP is approved, you can then use your packaging funding towards your support.
There is an increasing number of aged care providers, from traditional ones that send you employees to provide your services to non-traditional ones that connect you with independent support workers that you get to choose, and through to aged care homes.
You can Google ‘aged care support providers’, ask your GP or other healthcare provider for recommendations or, if you like the idea of being able to choose your support workers and getting much better value for money out of your package, you can explore using Mable.
STEP 4: Manage your services
You can choose to self-manage your support through services such as Mable. You need basic computer skills or the ability to use a smartphone app, and that’s pretty much it. Everything is made easy for you and our team is on hand to help.
If you choose a traditional aged care provider, your support services will be managed for you, but that comes with limited personal choice. You don’t get to choose your support workers and you have minimal input into your care.
Who runs My Aged Care?
My Aged Care is a federal government initiative. The Australian Department of Health administers various aspects of the scheme.
How can I contact My Aged Care?
You can call My Aged Care on 1800 200 422. It’s a free call and you’ll reach someone Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm and on Saturday from 10am to 2pm. For translating and interpreting services, call 131 450 and ask for 1800 200 422. If you have a hearing or speech impairment, you can reach My Aged Care via the National Relay Service on 1800 555 660.
What levels of support are available through My Aged Care?
The government has designated four different levels for Home Care Package funding. The level you will be on will depend on your needs.
- Level 1: $9,000 per year
- Level 2: $15,750 per year
- Level 3: $34,250 per year
- Level 4: $52,000 per year
The government pays this money directly to whatever home care provider you choose. Your provider works with you to determine the care and services you need, to the value of the budget.
Will my Home Care Package affect my pension?
No, HCP funding doesn’t affect the pension because it doesn’t count as income.
Will I have to pay anything towards my home care services?
The total amount of a Home Care Package is comprised of the Australian Government contribution (the funding) plus your own contribution which means any fees you are asked to pay. These include:
- Basic daily fee – A percentage of the single basic age pension depends on the Home Care Package level you are on.
- Income-tested care fee – An extra contribution that some people pay which is different for everyone and is based on an income assessment. (Full pensioners do not pay this fee.)
- Home care fee – This applies if you receive support at home.
For comprehensive information about what contributions you will make, visit the My Aged Care website.
Can I use funding from My Aged Care for social and domestic tasks?
Absolutely, and in fact, for many Home Care Package recipients, social and domestic tasks are the first types of support they access. An example is if you had to give up your driver’s license but still value your independence and want to go out regularly, a support worker can pick you up and take you to appointments, social visits and to run errands.
If you’re feel lonely because your family work throughout the week, a support worker could provide companionship. You could ask them to do some domestic tasks like laundry, cleaning your bathroom and kitchen or vacuuming and mopping the floors. They can prepare your morning tea and lunch, get the mail, take you shopping or out for coffee and help organise cupboards. Or you can simply sit and have a chat and a cup of tea, do a jigsaw puzzle or write a letter.
The aim with Home Care Package funding is to help older Australians to remain independent and part of that involves enjoying life and remaining engaged with your community. You should not have to miss out on going to church or the library or the cinema, and your HCP will help with that.
Can I pay out of pocket for support if my Home Care Package isn’t enough?
You certainly can. If you’d like to book more hours of support than what your funding covers, you can pay privately for them.
Can I start using aged care services if I’m not approved for a Home Care Package yet?
Yes you can, however you may need to pay out of pocket. It’s a good idea to get started as soon as you feel you need these services because the support you receive can help prevent some of the natural declines you may experience. Loneliness, not being as mobile as before, being a falls risk and missing out on important community connections won’t benefit from waiting.
What if my spouse also needs aged care services?
If you are a couple who lives at the same address, you can still access aged care services for each of you. You will each need to be assessed independently and wait for your packages to come through. One of you might need assistance with medications and personal care while the other might need support with cooking, cleaning and doing laundry. One of you may be approved for a higher-level package than the other. Everything is evaluated on an individual basis.
Is My Aged Care only for home care services?
No, My Aged Care is funding for older Australians when they need aged care services, whether they live at home or in a residential facility. A Home Care Package is specifically for home care services. You may be on a Home Care Package and ultimately need to move to an aged care home. In that case, your funding will be paid to the aged care home to go towards your care.
Explore your My Aged Care eligibility as soon as possible
As an older Australian, you may very well be entitled to My Aged Care funding to go towards support services that help keep you healthy, independent and connected to your community. Keep in mind the long wait times between approval and commencement. Apply for an assessment online here.
In the meantime, why not take a look at Mable? Create a client profile for yourself then start searching the independent support worker profiles. Start building your support team now so that once your My Aged Care funding is approved, you’re already familiar with your workers and how the services work.
If you have any other questions about registering for My Aged Care, we are only too happy to help. Call us on 1300 73 65 73 and we will guide you through.