Sooner or later most of us will have to face the reality that we can’t do everything that we once did at home and sometimes life can get a little lonely, particularly if you are living alone.
Sooner or later most of us will have to face the reality that we can’t do everything that we once did at home and sometimes life can get a little lonely, particularly if you are living alone. That doesn’t necessarily mean that older Australians have to make the sudden leap from independent living at home to a retirement village or nursing home. These days we have a better understanding of the benefits of staying at home for as long as possible, and fortunately there are many excellent services that can assist you to stay in your own home for as long as possible.
There are probably more services and more support options available than you even realise that are designed to keep you at home and active in the community for as long as you wish. Transport, counselling, medical and home aids, nursing support, meals, cleaning and home maintenance, or even personal care. Some of these services in your area may be provided by the government, by community organisations, or by both.
The first thing you need to know is about the options available to you through government supported services. If you are intending to stay at home you must first consider whether you need only a little extra help, or if you need more extensive support, to maintain your independence.
If you need just a little support, the Home and Community Care (HACC) program may be right for you. Depending on what your individual needs are, through the HACC Program you can access assistance with such things as house cleaning, meals, personal care/hygiene, shopping, social activities outside of the home, nursing care, home modifications or goods and equipment to help you maintain independence, allied health care (such as physiotherapy), respite, transport, social support, assessments for other services, and case management. You can even get help with things like writing letters, paying bills, or doing your banking.
HACC services are heavily subsidised by the Australian and State and Territory Governments, though you will usually be asked to pay a fairly small fee directly to the service provider. The HACC fees and costs can vary depending on the service being provided, your income, and the State in which you live. It is important to know that no senior Australian can be refused a service if they genuinely can’t afford to pay, so the cost of a HACC service should never be a barrier to accessing help.
Every year, more than half a million Australian seniors access support services through HACC, and the number is growing. To access the program and to find out what services are available in your local area you simply contact your nearest Commonwealth Carelink Centre, located throughout Australia, either in person or by phone on 1800 052 222. You can also use this website to find your nearest centre.
If maintaining your independence is a little more complicated, you may be better off with a Home Care Package. Designed for seniors with more complex needs, approximately 80,000 senior Australian households currently access Home Care Packages and the number of packages available each year is increasing. The services available under the Home Care Package are similar to that offered under HACC, however the package is a coordinated service based on your formally assessed needs. If you access a Home Care Package you will have a dedicated home care provider who will coordinate all of your care needs under a detailed care plan that you and your provider determine. To support this you will also be given a Home Care Agreement which basically outlines what you are entitled to in terms of care and services. You can have a great deal of control over your plan, or you can leave it more in the hands of your health care provider, so flexibility and control are a big part of the package.
Accessing a Home Care Package does require formal assessment from and Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) and packages are based on a four tier system to cater for a range of needs – from basic care needs to high level care needs. The assessment will involve meeting with a professional such as a health or social worker who will assess your level of independence and determine your support needs to maintain your independence at home and in the community. The assessment is also important in helping to educate you on appropriate services that are the right fit for your needs. Through the assessment you will be told which government subsidised services that you have been approved to receive and will be connected to specific services in your local area.
The costs of a Home Care Package changed on 1 July 2014. At the minimum, anyone entering a Home Care Package Agreement can now expect to pay up to 17.5% of the single basic Age Pension. For seniors with an income above a certain threshold amount (currently the threshold is $24, 367.0 for singles or $38,552.8 for couples) the may be a fee based on an income assessment. The assessment is based on income only and does not include assets, and there are also annual and lifetime caps on what you have to pay for your Home Care Package. Any fees for Home Care Packages are determined per person and not per household.
The Australia Government has a Home Care Fee Estimator to help you estimate the costs of Home Care.
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