Most older people want to keep living in their own homes as they age, staying as independent as possible and making their own decisions about things that affect their life, health and wellbeing. Home care can help you to achieve this by giving you extra assistance to stay safe, comfortable and well at home.
Asking for extra help to manage at home can be difficult – but it’s more common than you might think. Home care is helping almost 1 million Australians to age well in their own homes. You can listen to some of their personal stories on the My Aged Care website.
If you’re considering home care, you have different options to choose from, including a Home Care Package. To make an informed decision, you’ll want to know what’s available and what it costs.
Home Care Options
There are different types of home support available. The option you choose will depend on the level of care you need, how long you need it for, and whether you want to rely on government-subsidised services, private services or help from your personal networks. The main options are:
- basic or short-term support through the Commonwealth Home Support Program
- more or longer-term support with a Home Care Package
- private services
- personal networks and community.
Some people use a combination of these options to meet their needs.
Commonwealth Home Support Program
The Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) is good for people who need basic or short-term support, for example, when recovering from illness. CHSP is a government program that supports older people who are still managing well at home, but want some extra assistance, such as home help, delivered meals, personal care or home maintenance. The service is subsidised by government, but you have to pay some fees.
Before you can get CHSP services, you need an assessment. The Regional Assessment Service (RAS) will visit you at home to assess what services you can use. Contact My Aged Care for a referral to RAS.
If you think you need more or longer-term assistance, a Home Care Package might be better for you.
Rather than using government-subsidised services, you might prefer to use private care services. Many companies and organisations offer fee-for-service home care. You don’t need an assessment and you can contact organisations directly to find out what they offer. You choose what services you want to purchase and are responsible for paying the costs.
You can find private services through the local newspaper, the yellow pages or by word-of-mouth. Charges, staff expertise and the quality of care vary, so do your research and check their credentials to make sure you get the service you want.
Personal networks and community
We all need others in our lives in various ways and at different times. It can be hard to ask for help, but family, friends and neighbours are often happy to assist. This might be little things, like collecting mail or helping with shopping, or something more, like cooking a couple of meals for you.
You community may also have services like a community visitors scheme, grocery home delivery, medical alert systems, community transport or home library book delivery. Contact your local council to find out what free or low-cost services they offer.
Home Care Package Basics
The Home Care Packages program is a government-subsidised program that provides long-term support for older people who want to stay living at home. Home Care Packages are flexible – you get to choose the services and support that will make a difference to your life.
Home Care Package levels
There are four levels of Home Care Package for different levels of care and support needs:
- Level 1 for basic care needs
- Level 2 for low-level care needs
- Level 3 for intermediate care needs
- Level 4 for high-level care needs.
Each level receives a different amount of government funding. The higher the level, the more funding the government pays on your behalf, allowing you to buy more services.
To get a Home Care Package, you need to have an assessment, which will decide what level of package you’re eligible for. If your needs increase, you may be re-assessed for a higher level package.
How it works
Home Care Package funds aren’t paid to you directly. Instead, you choose an approved Home Care Package provider to administer the funds on your behalf and give you ‘case management’ support and advice.
Choosing between a Home Care Package and the Commonwealth Home Support Program
Home Care Packages and the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) both give you support to stay at home. But there are differences between the programs.
With the CHSP, you:
- choose from a set menu of services – there isn’t much flexibility
- only pay for the services you use
- can dip in and out of the program as you need things.
With a Home Care Package:
- a case manager or case adviser helps you understand the system and work out a Care Plan
- you decide how to spend the funding you get, rather than choosing from a menu
- once you have a package, it stays in place for the long term.
Cost and value for money
Home Care Packages are subsidised by the Australian government, but you are asked to pay something towards the cost of the service. The amount you are asked to contribute depends on your income, assets and circumstances.
What you pay
There are two types of fees you may be asked to pay: the basic daily fee and an income-tested care fee.
Your provider may ask you to pay a basic daily fee. This amount is added to your budget and boosts what you can spend on care and support. Different providers charge different basic daily fees. Some providers have no fee and some use a sliding scale. The maximum you can be charged is $140.40, which is equal to 17.5% of the full Age Pension. You can negotiate with your provider about what basic daily fee you pay.
If your income is above a certain amount, you must pay an income-tested care fee. Your income-tested care fee is assessed by Centrelink and increases the higher your income is. The government subsidy for your package is reduced by the same amount as your income-tested care fee.
Both of these fees are the same no matter what level of package you are on.
What the government pays
The government contributes a different amount depending on your package level.
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There are also supplements for people in remote areas and with specific needs, such as dementia support.
If you’re worried about costs, you can get free, confidential and independent financial advice from the Department of Human Services’ Financial Information Service. Find more information on the Financial Information Service webpage or call 132 300 to make an appointment.
If you can’t afford to pay, you may be able to get government financial hardship assistance.
Value for money
Whether a Home Care Package is good value for money for you depends on your circumstances – everyone’s situation is different.
Part-pensioners and self-funded retirees will have to contribute more, but a Home Care Package may still be worthwhile. Some things to consider are:
- what your care and support needs are
- whether you have others that can help you manage at home
- whether you would be better off financially paying for services privately
- how much you have to contribute vs how much the Government will subsidise.
Don’t be too quick to say no to a package – it’s worth getting all the facts and figures before making a decision, particularly if you are eligible for a Level 3 or 4 package.