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What should I know about home care?

Last Updated at November 26th 2021
The wide range of support options available to Australians as they age can be difficult to navigate, so this article brings together all the most important things you need to know about home care.

Key points

  • Home care services can help you to live independently at home for longer

  • You need to be assessed to receive Government funded home care

  • There may be a wait for a home care package and there may also be some costs involved for you, depending on your financial situation

Older lady looks over her shoulder and smiles as she plays a card game with friends at home.
Home care services can help you to live independently at home for longer. [Source: Shutterstock]

What is home care?

Home care refers to any services provided to keep you living healthily and safely in your own home in the community, as well as engaging in social activities.

Government funded home care is available at different levels, beginning with a Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) for basic needs and ranging up to a Level 4 Home Care Package (HCP) for high support needs.

The types of services which you can access through home care include:

  • Help with domestic tasks such as laundry, cleaning or meal preparation

  • Transport to appointments, shopping

  • Assistance with personal care such as showering and dressing

  • Gardening and home maintenance

  • Medication management

  • Counselling and support

  • Fitness and rehabilitation

  • Allied health support such as podiatry or occupational therapy

  • After hospital care

  • Goods and equipment such as mobility aids

  • Social support and other activities

  • Nursing care such as changing dressings on wounds

  • End of life care at home

Each CHSP and HCP is tailored to the individual with the specific supports you need to live well at home and you can choose whether to manage it yourself or have someone manage the funding on your behalf.

When to consider care

Be aware that changes in your ability to do everyday tasks can happen very gradually, so keep an eye out for any signs you might need some extra help around your home.

The changes to look for include simple daily tasks like the laundry or cooking meals becoming overwhelming, your living space becoming less tidy, your appearance becoming less tidy, forgetfulness - particularly with medication and meals, or avoiding social contact.

Sometimes these changes are not picked up and it takes a bigger event for you to realise you may benefit from home care.

You should seek home care immediately if you have a fall due to reduced mobility, lose your driver’s licence, forget where you are and how to get home, have a medical procedure requiring temporary care or a hospital stay, or have no support network close by to help you.

Questions to ask when considering home care

You might like to start thinking about home care by asking yourself these questions, and being honest with yourself about the answers:

  • What do you need help with?

  • Do you have any health or safety concerns?

  • What care does your family and support network give, and what care are they unable to give?

  • What are your goals for the next few years?

  • Do you regularly feel lonely or isolated?

  • Would your needs be better met with home care or aged care?

  • Is your home safe enough for you to live in? Do you need modifications for your mobility?

  • Are you expecting your needs to increase significantly in the next year?

Assessment

To receive Government funded home care you will need to register with My Aged Care and be assessed by the Regional Assessment Service for the CHSP or the Aged Care Assessment Team, also known as ACAT (called the Aged Care Assessment Service or ACAS in Victoria only) for a HCP.

A member of the team, which may include a doctor, nurse, social worker, or other health professional, will meet with you to assess your care needs and how well you are managing at home.

They will identify the right services for your needs and the level of care you require, then give you a letter stating the types of subsidised services you have been approved for and might also put you in contact with local providers.

For more information about assessment visit our article on assessment and eligibility for aged care services.

Waiting for home care

After you are assessed for a HCP you will be placed on a waiting list until a package becomes available, which may only take a few weeks but could be up to nine to 12 months.

While you wait for your package you may be able to receive assistance through the CHSP to have some temporary services put in place, as access to CHSP is a much quicker process.

The other option is to ask for an interim package, which is a lower level HCP than what you are assessed for and provides supports while you wait for your higher level care. There is a wait time for interim packages as well, but it is generally three to six months.

Private home care services which are not funded by the Government could also be available to you while you wait for a HCP, depending on what you can afford, and can be accessed straight away.

You can talk about these options with your ACAT or ACAS assessor, and more information about waiting for a HCP can be found here.

Costs of home care

The Government subsidises the cost of services provided under HCPs and CHSPs, but how much funding support you receive depends on your income and assets.

The Government provides guidelines around the cost of home care but different providers charge different rates and fees for additional services.

You might also be required to fund part of your care, more information about the costs of home care and Government subsidy can be read in our online guide.

What else do you want to know about home care? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content

Myths about in home care
Staying at home for longer
Extra supplements available under Home Care Packages
Choosing a home care provider

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