Home Care Package: What is it?
Most people want to stay living in their own home as they get older but many are not aware of the support services available to help them remain independent.
Home care is a great way for older people to receive assistance with day-to-day activities, as well as more complex care needs.
A Home Care Package is one of the main ways older Australians access home care services.
What is a Home Care Package?
The Home Care Packages (HCP) program provides support to older people with complex care needs to live independently in their own homes.
The Australian Government subsidises organisations to provide the services to eligible older people. Approved providers work with care recipients to plan, organise and deliver a coordinated package of services to meet each individual’s specific needs.
The program provides services that sit between the Department of Health’s entry-level Commonwealth Home Support Programme and residential aged care for older people who can no longer live at home.
There are four levels of packages available – from Level 1 for basic care needs to Level 4 for high care needs. Packages are assigned based on the needs and living circumstances of the person.
The care and services must be provided in a way that meets the Australian Government’s quality standards.
What can I use Home Care Package funds for?
Funds can be spent on a range of services or items that will support your health and wellbeing.
According to My Aged Care, depending on the level of package you receive, you can spend the funds on three basic categories:
- Services to keep you well and independent
- Services to keep you safe in your home
- Services that allow you to interact with your community
Some examples include:
- Help with household tasks, such as cleaning, laundry, making beds
- Basic gardening and lawn maintenance
- Personal care, such as showering, dressing, continence management
- Clinical care such as medication assistance, nursing, podiatry and physiotherapy services
- Transport to appointments
- Social activities, including those in a group setting or accompanied activities.
- Exercise programs
- Equipment, such as walking frames
- Minor home modifications.
Services need to fit within your package budget and be listed in your care plan. Some of your funds will go towards paying your provider’s administrative and case management charges. If you can afford to, you might choose to pay for some extra things out of your personal funds.
How do I access a Home Care Package?
Before you receive a Home Care Package, you need to apply for an assessment to see if you are eligible. You can do this by contacting My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 or by using the online application form.
You can complete the application yourself or on behalf of a family member or friend.
You will have to answer some questions about your current situation and whether you need help with everyday tasks. You’ll also be asked to provide some information about yourself and will need your Medicare card for this part.
Based on your responses, My Aged Care will decide whether you can proceed to the next step – a face-to-face assessment. If so, an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) will contact you within three weeks to organise a time to visit to assess your eligibility for a package.
Assessors are usually nursing or allied health professionals who have been trained to follow government guidelines. The assessors will look at your cognitive and physical ability to live at home. They will take into account the level of informal care you receive from family and friends, such as help with shopping and cleaning.
After your face-to-face assessment, the ACAT will send you a letter. The letter will contain:
- The assessment decision – confirming whether you are eligible for a Home Care Package
- If eligible, the level of package you have been approved for
- The reasons and evidence supporting the decision
- A copy of your support plan developed during your assessment.
How long will I have to wait for a package?
There are a fixed number of Home Care Packages available and demand is high. This means even once you are approved for a package, you will need to wait in a national queue managed by My Aged Care.
Your package level will determine the wait time. According to My Aged Care, the expected wait times are:
- Level 1: 3-6 Months
- Level 2: 12+ Months
- Level 3: 12+ Months
- Level 4: 12+ Months
You may be able to get help sooner by choosing to receive an interim package at a lower level than you’ve been approved to receive.
Alternatively, you can receive entry level help through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) while you wait or pay for services privately.
What should I do after I’m allocated a package?
The next step is to choose a Home Care Package provider.
It is important to research potential providers to make sure they can meet your needs. My Aged Care provides a tool that allows you to compare different providers.
Some things to consider when deciding on a provider are:
- Services: Be sure the provider offers the range of services you want.
- Availability: You might want evening or weekend services, so confirm these are available.
- Staffing: Check whether they employ their own staff or use agency staff, and what level of training they have.
- Ongoing communication: Ask how often care coordinators visit and speak with clients and how often care plans are reviewed.
- Service rates: Providers set their own rates so it’s a good idea to compare rates for the services you want, as well as the administration and case management fees.
- Entry and exit fees: Ask whether the provider charges entry and exit fees.
Setting up a meeting with each shortlisted provider is a good way to find out more detailed information about their services and will allow you to ask any questions you might have.
Once you have chosen a provider, they will work with you to decide on the care and services that best your needs and how your package funds will be spent.
How much will the government contribute to my package?
Each Home Care Package level attracts a different subsidy. The levels and amount paid by the government are as follows:
- Level 1: approximately $9,000 a year
- Level 2: approximately $15,750 a year
- Level 3: approximately $34,500 a year
- Level 4: approximately $52,250 a year
What will a Home Care Package cost me?
Your contribution could be made up of a Basic Daily Care Fee, an Income-Tested Fee and other fees.
- Basic Daily Fee: The Basic Daily Fee (BDF) which all customers with a Home Care Package are expected to pay. The BDF is capped at 17.5% of the Full Single Aged Pension.
- Income-Tested Fee: This is a means-tested fee based on your income, including the pension if you receive it. The government will assess your income and inform your chosen provider if you are required to pay an ITF.
- Other fees: You may agree to pay for additional care and services that wouldn’t otherwise be covered by your Home Care Package.