Home care is becoming more popular for older Australians as an alternative to opting into residential care. Older Australians are happier to choose where to live – either at home, in a retirement community or with the kids – and source the care required to come to you. But like anything, this option also presents its downsides. The demand for home care packages exceeds the provisions made available. Once your package has been approved, your name goes on the waiting list until funding becomes available. There could be a waiting period of anywhere between 12-18 months.
Approximately 152,000 older Australians receive assistance through a home care package, with another more than 100,000 people on the waiting list. Some people waiting might receive a lower level of care, therefore they have access to some support in the meantime. This year’s federal budget reflected an additional $1.6 billion from the Government to provide more home care packages to 23,000. Whilst this is a step in the right direction, the wait is still expected to be long.
The government-subsidised home care packages are funded at four different levels. Each level has a different amount of funding (budget) available to be spent on care – the packages ranging from $12,443 to $53,732 per year.
The government pays for most of this, but depending on your assessable income you may need to contribute part of the cost. You could be asked to pay a basic daily fee of $3,515 to $3,924 per year, depending on the approved package level. You might also be asked to pay an income-tested fee of up to $11,235 per year. At most, this caps your contribution to $14,749 per year.
How to maximise the package
The other downside of choosing the option of a home care package is that it may not provide you with adequate funds to meet your needs and requirements. This is easily fixed by paying for extra services out of your savings, but this only applies if you have access to sufficient spare cash in the bank. Otherwise, you may need to consider the option of acquiring support from family and friends where further care is required.
Also keep in mind that your home care package will also incur administration and other case management fees. These are paid from the available package budget. When choosing a care provider, ensure that you shop around. Compare the administration fees, hourly care fees along with any other fees that are charged.
A great place to start is to search for providers and compare pricing on myagedcare.gov.au.
When comparing, look at the different types of providers to see what options are available what choices you can take – perhaps you can take on part of the administration yourself. This can help to reduce fees. Some of the newer platform types of care providers allow you manage your affairs yourself and have greater control of the overall process.
Can’t wait for government funding?
Unfortunately, a lot of people leave things to the last minute before starting the application process. Planning ahead may help but if you are at the point of need, carefully planning for what you need and how it will be provided is still of great importance – stretch the budget as far as possible.
While government funding can assist to cover the costs, you also have other options. If your personal budget is already stretched and you have very little or no saving, the other source of funds may be to access the equity locked up in your home. Accessing the government’s Pension Loan Scheme or a reverse mortgage that pays a regular monthly income might make the difference. In turn, this will help to provide the quality of lifestyle so you can continue to age gracefully at home.