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The little known truth about aged care.

May 14th, 2018

Moving a loved one into aged care can be an emotional time for families. Finding a facility that provides the right balance of care and independence at an affordable cost presents challenges.

There are key issues families should be aware of before taking this important step. A well-researched choice will help avoid stress and ease the transition for their loved one.

Aged care in Australia

There are approximately 172,000 older Australians permanently living in aged residential facilities and a further 812,000 receiving Home and Community Care (HACC) services[1].

An aging population is set to drive an increase in aged care facilities in the future. The number of Australians aged 65 years and over is predicted to reach 8.9 million by 2054-55 and the Aged Care Financing Authority estimates that 76,000 new residential aged care places will be required by 2023-24 in order to meet demand[2].

Costs involved in aged care

The Australian Government subsidises aged care services for older people who can no longer live independently at home. To find out if your loved one is eligible for in-home support or residential aged care, you must contact the Aged Care Assessment Team[3]. The assessor will ask questions about the older person’s health and lifestyle concerns, what kind of support they receive and how they manage daily activities. They may also speak to their GP.

If your loved one is deemed eligible, the amount they pay for care will depend upon their personal and financial situation. To get an idea of the costs, use the government’s fee estimator for home care[4] or residential aged care[5].

If your loved one is not eligible for government subsidies or if your family wishes to pay for aged care services, they can choose from non-Government funded nursing homes and aged care services. Families will be asked to cover daily needs such as meals, laundry, utilities and cleaning, plus a refundable accommodation payment (RAD). The maximum daily fee is $49.42[6] and the average cost of the RAD is a reported $350,000[7].

How to choose the right place

The most critical factor to consider when selecting a residential facility is staffing ratios. Currently there is no mandated ratio of skilled staff to care recipients across residential aged care facilities, but this is set to be debated in Parliament[8].

Australian aged care residents receive 2.84 hours of care per day, but according to the New South Wales Nurses and Midwives Association, they should be receiving four hours and 18 minutes of care per day.

Many aged care homes provide excellent care for older Australians[9], but many are also compromised by the absence of minimum skill level for residential aged care workers. These workers are also among the nation’s lowest paid at $18.29 minimum per hour.

To broach these issues with prospective facilities, families should ask if a registered nurse is provided at all times, how many residents receive care at the facility and what staff turnover is like.

Making an informed decision can make all the difference to families faced with this decision. Weighing this up with their loved one’s preferences will ideally lead to a smooth transition and quality care.

[1] Older Australia At A Glance, 2017, AIHW, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data

[2] Australia’s Aged Care Sector, 2016, Deloitte, https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/economics/articles/australias-aged-care-sector-economic-contribution.html

[3] Comprehensive Assessment with an ACAT, 2017, myagedcare, https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/eligibility-and-assessment/acat-assessments

[4] Home Care Fee Estimator, date undisclosed, myagedcare, https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/fee-estimator/home-care/form

[5] Residential Care Fee Estimator, date undisclosed, myagedcare, https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/fee-estimator/residential-care/form

[6] Schedule of Fees and Charges for Residential and Home Care: From 1 January 2018, 2017, Ageing and Aged Care, https://agedcare.health.gov.au/funding/schedule-of-fees-and-charges-for-residential-and-home-care-from-1-january-2018

[7] Five ways to fund the cost of aged care , 2016, AFR,


[8] Elderly Eat Worse Than Prisoners, 2017, SBS, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/elderly-eat-worse-than-prisoners-hinch

[9] Aged Care Staffing Levels and skills Mix Project, date undisclosed, NSWNMA, http://www.nswnma.asn.au/aged-care-staffing-levels-and-skills-mix-project/