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What is an aged care assessment and how does it work

Last Updated at July 20th 2021
When sorting out your aged care service and facility options for yourself or an older loved one, your first point of call is registering yourself with My Aged Care.

Key points:

  • Getting an assessment is the first step towards getting access to Government funded services

  • Assessments are undertaken by the Aged Care Assessment Team across Australia, or the Aged Care Assessment Service in Victoria

  • You can have your assessment reviewed if you don't agree with the outcome

Older couple with an ACAT/ACAS assessor
A member of an ACAT/S can help you, and your carer, determine what kind of care will best suit your needs. [Source: Shutterstock]

From there, you can organise an assessment with an Aged Care Assessment Team/Service (ACAT/S). This is an important step to get the ball rolling for your aged care journey with Government subsidised aged care services.

When you are no longer able to manage at home without assistance, an ACAT/S will determine what kind of Government assistance will best suit your needs.

ACAT/S assessors will take the information you have provided and analyse whether you require support or if you're already receiving care whether you require a higher level of care. 

What are ACATs/ACAS'?

An ACAT/S assessor will work with you, and your carer, to determine what your current difficulties are and what kind of care would provide you the most benefit. That could be extra help around the home or making a move into an aged care facility. 

In Victoria, they are referred to as the Aged Care Assessment Service (ACAS), however, the service is exactly the same as the ACAT.

The ACAT/S assessor will assess whether you may be eligible for a Home Care Package provided in your own home, respite care or residential care in a nursing home, transition care services after a hospital stay, or Short Term Restorative Care.

ACAT/S assessors are generally professionals with medical backgrounds, this includes doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, and other health experts.

Arranging an ACAT/S assessment

To arrange an ACAT assessment you need to contact the customer service centre of My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 or fill out the online form.

Alternatively, your social worker, doctor, or other health professionals can organise this for you on your behalf. 

Referrals can also be made by family or friends, hospital social workers, local community service providers, residential facilities, or any other person with a legitimate interest in the health of an older person.

When do I need an ACAT/S assessment?

You will need an ACAT/S assessment before you can start receiving any government subsidised aged care support. The assessment will be used to determine the type of care to best meet your needs and circumstances.

This guidance is offered whether you’re looking to move into an aged care home, requiring home care assistance, respite care, Short Term Restorative Care, or Transition Care.

The ACAT assessment is required if you need to access any level of Home Care Package or entry into a Government funded aged care home. For basic in home support under the Commonwealth Home Support Programme you are generally directed to the Regional Assessment Service for assessment. 

You do not have to pay for an assessment.

Who is part of the ACAT/S?

ACATs/ACAS' are teams of medical and allied health professionals who assess your physical, psychological, medical, restorative, cultural, and social needs to help with access to appropriate levels of support.

One member of this team, either a doctor, nurse, social worker, or other health professional, will visit you in your home or in hospital to assess your needs.

These teams, or services, are based all over Australia. Your nearest local ACAT/ACAS will contact you to organise a face to face visit.

How the assessment works

A member of your local ACAT/S will visit you in your home or in hospital to assess your needs. You will be asked a series of questions to work out how much and what sort of help you require with daily and personal activities and to determine the best care option for your situation. 

Carers, relatives or close friends are encouraged to be involved in the discussion.

To determine the best care option for you, your ACAT may discuss:

  • Your medical history

  • Your living arrangements and current support

  • The type of help you require, ie, daily and personal care needs, such as showering, shopping etc

  • The aged care or home care services available in your local area

I’ve now been assessed. What’s next?

The ACAT will discuss your potential assessment results with you and what in home, community, or residential care options are available in your area.

If the ACAT/S considers you eligible for services, you will receive a letter that describes your assessment results which you’ll need to provide to the facilities or services you’re applying for. This will also include a referral code. 

The service provider of your choice will need this referral code to access your information and manage the referral.

Also within the letter is the reasons and evidence that supports the decision for your approval for services, as well as your support plan.

Being approved for funded supports doesn't always mean you will be able to access services straight away. You may need to wait until a suitable package or place in an aged care home comes available, and wait times can range from a few weeks to a number of months.

What if I’m unhappy with my assessment results?

You have the final decision to accept or reject an ACAT/S recommendation.

If you are unhappy with the recommendations, first talk with the person in charge of the ACAT; most concerns can be resolved this way.

If you cannot come to an agreement, you can appeal the decision and have the assessment reviewed.

To have the decision reviewed you must write to the Secretary of the Australian Department of Health within 28 days of your assessment letter arriving. The request should be answered within 90 days with a decision.

If you do not agree with the Secretary's review, you can escalate the matter further by contacting the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

While asking for a review by the Secretary is free, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal does incur a charge.

Why are you seeking an ACAT/ACAS assessment? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

Getting assessed and finding the right nursing home
Assessing your needs and eligibility
What is the Regional Assessment Service (RAS) for?

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