Support, guidance & advice for todays primary carers
Coral Wilkinson from See Me Aged Care Navigation shares tips and advice about when and how to get more help for our aged loved ones when they need it.
One of the things I learnt on my caring journey is that we can often take the long way or wrong way. Sometimes asking for professional help will help make the journey easier. You fight tooth and nail to get your loved one on the Home Care Package merry-go-round. You apply and are likely to be approved for a level 1 or 2 package, which then takes a good 6-12 months or so to come through.
But … here’s the thing! Aging, as we know, can happen so rapidly, that by the time the package comes through your loved ones have done just that – they have declined rapidly to the point that a level 1 or 2 package just doesn’t meet their needs any longer.
So, what do you do? At that point, you take further action; you apply for more. Always act sooner rather than later.
My Aged Care is where you go to first, to apply for government subsidised services and support.
It is also where you go to when you’re requesting a review of current approvals and to be reassessed for more services; known as a Support Plan Review.
The best time to contact My Aged Care and ask for a review for your loved one is when you recognise that the needs have increased and the support received is not enough.
There are two separate funding programs through My Aged Care. One is the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), which is the entry level service. This is intended for those who simply need one or two basic services.
This is the service that once upon a time was provided by your local council. There is usually a small out-of pocket contribution for each service. The assessments for this program is done by the Regional Assessment Service (RAS).
The second funding program is the Home Care Package (HCP), which is assessed by a different team, called the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) (in Victoria it is called Aged Care Assessment Service (ACAS). This is usually the program you are transitioned to once your care needs increase.
Both these programs then generate what is known as a Support Plan.
So, you would typically start with the CHSP, then move to the Home Care Package once the funding is allocated to you. You then shop around and choose which provider is right for your needs. This may or may not be the same provider as your CHSP package. You can change providers if they do not suit you.
Now, in case it wasn’t confusing enough, the Support Plan is different to the Care Plan, which is then developed by your home care package provider in consultation with you.
Levels of Home Care Packages
Home care packages begin at level 1, which supports very basic needs, through to a level 4 which is the highest level and provides more funding aligned to complex needs or higher support needs.
What to do if your needs increase
At some point you’ll need to move up to the next level of support. If you are receiving CHSP services, you’ll need an ACAT/ACAS assessment to be approved for a home care package. This process is called the Support Plan Review. If you’ve already been assessed by the ACAT/ACAS and are on a lower level home care package, you’ll also need a Support Plan Review to have your package level upgraded.
As confusing as this sounds, it is something that everyone who is in receipt of assistance needs to be aware of.
The challenges of needing more support are:
- Doing something about it in a timely manner and contacting My Aged Care. People don’t realise at any time, when needs increase, it is possible to have a Support Plan Review, even if an assessment was fairly recent, as things can change in a heartbeat.
- Understanding that this conversation with My Aged Care needs to be well thought out by you so you can clearly articulate your increased needs, which, if you are a carer, must include telling My Aged Care that you are experiencing carer stress, or worse, nearing carer crisis.
- If your caring role is becoming too difficult, My Aged Care needs to know straight away. Any older person at risk of prematurely entering an aged care facility or worse, being admitted to hospital because a carer cannot extend themselves any further will make both My Aged Care and the RAS or the ACAT sit up and take notice.
Self-Management of Home Care Packages
The process for people who are self-managing their home care package is the same as people who are with a fully managed provider, when seeking a package upgrade.
There is more onus on the person who is self-managing their home care package though to instigate a Support Plan Review themselves, rather than have their provider trigger this.
Tips for getting the best out of your assessment
When you’re assessed by the ACAT/ACAS for a home care package, it is also advisable to have all the approvals completed at once. These approvals would be for residential respite as well as permanent entry into an aged care facility. Having these approvals in place doesn’t mean you need to use them. They are there in case an urgent situation arises and you need to act quickly.
It is only the ACAT/ACAS who approve for residential respite and entry.
The wait time to be assigned a home care package, for a medium priority approval at present is about 3–6 months. A high priority approval is about 1–3 months at present. Unfortunately, you cannot ask for the priority rating, this is entirely at the discretion of the ACAT/ACAS.
Again, it is important that you have all information ready and be candid with the assessor. Being stoic won’t help you get the upgraded package you’re seeking.
If you want more information just reach out to Coral Wilkinson at See Me Aged Care Navigation.
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Carer Gateway is an Australian Government program providing free services and support for carers. Call Carer Gateway for support and access to services, Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm local time.
Assistance with accessing emergency respite is available any time, 24/7.
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