Home Care Package – Tips and Traps

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Article by 

Rachel Lane

Rachel Lane from Aged Care Gurus talks all things Home Care Package and what you need to know throughout the process.

The best thing about a Home Care Package is that it can be delivered wherever you call Home, but that doesn’t mean it’s like Uber Eats. There can be delays to getting assessed and then delays before your package starts, so if your plan is to “Age in Place”, planning ahead is a very good idea. 

There are now more people receiving care through a home care package than those living in an aged care home. As of 31 December 2022, there were 255,628 who had been assigned a home care package.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

To be eligible to receive a Home Care Package, you will need to have an Aged Care Assessment Team assessment (normally called an “ACAT” or “ACAS” in Victoria).

The assessment is free and will normally be conducted in your own home – you are welcome to have a friend or family member attend the meeting with you (in fact, it can be a good idea), and if you need an interpreter, the ACAT can arrange one for you. There is no age restriction, and there is no financial means test on receiving a home care package. It is based on your care needs.

TIP: It is common that there is a wait time for your assessment to be conducted – if you are in urgent need, it can be done in a few days, but anything from a few weeks to a few months is common, depending on your need and location.

 TRAP: The purpose of the ACAT assessment is to determine what support you need to continue living as independently as possible. Most people want to put their best foot forward, but there’s really no need to dress up in your best outfit. Likewise, saying “I’m fine” or downplaying the support you need won’t be in your best interests.

TIP: As part of your ACAT assessment, the team will also look at other services that may assist you, such as a respite stay in an aged care home or even permanent entry. Instead of declining other approvals, think of your ACAT like a passport – if you’re approved, then you can use it, and the government will fund it. If you’re not, you will need to be re-assessed.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Assuming you are approved, then when you get your assessment back (known as a Support Plan), it will list the services you have been approved for, and you will be placed on the National Prioritisation Queue for your home care package. There were 37,894 people in the queue for a Home Care Package at their approved level on 31 December 2022.
Of those, 37,397 (99%) had been offered an “interim package”, which is a lower level package than their assessed need or Commonwealth Home Support Programme services while they are waiting.

TRAP: Many people delay applying for a package until the need is urgent, don’t delay. n TIP: While you are waiting for your package to commence, it is the perfect time to research which home care package provider you want to host your package.

Home Care Packages

CHOOSING A PROVIDER

When it comes to choosing a provider to host your home care package, it pays to shop around. Your preferred provider may not be able to take you on immediately, so doing this early can be a good idea. No matter who chooses to host your package, there will always be administration fees (to manage the payment of your services) and case management costs (it is a requirement that you have a care plan). But how much it costs varies from one provider to another.

The best thing about a Home Care Package is that it can be delivered wherever you call Home, but that doesn’t mean it’s like Uber Eats. There can be delays to get assessed and then delays before your package starts, so if your plan is to “Age in Place” planning ahead is a very good idea.

On top of these costs, there is obviously the fee you pay for the service/s you receive, and often there are travel costs too (unless you live somewhere like a retirement village, where the care is already onsite). There are providers that enable you to self-manage your package.

They still develop a care plan for you and charge an administration fee, but it can be significantly cheaper – around 12% is common – this covers government compliance, paying your service providers, and keeping track of your package funds. It’s then up to you to arrange your care. Online platforms, like “Mable” can help here.
Their platform enables you to connect with care workers in your local area. They charge up to 15% (5% paid by you and 10% by the worker), which includes ensuring that workers have a police check, qualification checks and appropriate insurance.

You contact and negotiate the cost, services, days and times directly with the care worker. Choosing your own carer/s is a completely different dynamic -You hire, and you fire!

WHAT SERVICES CAN YOU GET?

It’s really up to you. Your package can support you with daily activities like showering and dressing through to the purchase of mobility aids and home modifications. You can’t use your home care package funds to cover accommodation costs (like rent or mortgage payments) or for holidays, and you can’t pay for other funded services like GP visits with your package funds either. 

The amount of funding in your package will depend on the level of package you receive, any additional supplements you are eligible for and whether or not you pay the basic daily fee.

 For example, let’s say you were receiving a Level 3 Package and you’re eligible for the dementia supplement your package value would be: $11.83 (Basic Daily Fee) + $96.27 (Basic Subsidy) + $11.07 (Dementia Supplement) = $119.17 per day If the provider waived the Basic Daily Fee then you simply wouldn’t pay that $11.83 and your package funds would reduce by the same amount. 

TIP: It can be easy to think, “I only pay $83/week, and I get 9 hours of care, so I’m getting good bang for my buck”. But if you are receiving a level 3 package, the total funding is $834/ week. Is it worth $93/hour?

WHAT DOES IT COST? 

Everyone who receives a Home Care Package can pay the Basic Daily Fee, the maximum is based on your package level.  

Your ability to contribute beyond the basic daily fee is based on your (and, if applicable, your partner’s) income through what is called an Income tested care fee. People who receive the Full Age pension do not pay an income-tested care fee.

 People with higher levels of income – which is based on Centrelink’s income test and may be very diff erent the income you actually receive – pay an income-tested care fee on top. The income tested fee is calculated at 50c per dollar of income above the threshold and capped at $6,341/year for part-pensioners and $12,683/ year for self-funded retirees.

 As of 20 March 2023, the thresholds were $31,140p.a for singles and $24,118 for a member of a couple. There is also a lifetime cap of $76,096. Your income-tested care fee cannot exceed the cost of your care — which is the funding the government provide. 

TIP: The means assessment for a home care package is based only on income (unlike residential aged care, which includes assets too). Choosing investments that are friendly for Centrelink’s income test could be a worthwhile strategy even if you are a self-funded retiree.

TRAP: You don’t have to submit to the income assessment. If you don’t, you pay the maximum income-tested care fee of $35 /day (but not more than the funding), and you still get the annual cap and lifetime limit.

 Work out what you will need to pay before you start filling in the form – if you are going to pay the maximum amount, then you can save yourself the hassle of completing the paperwork. ACG

About Rachel Lane

Rachel Lane explains the ins and outs of retirement living and aged care like no-one else. Her ability to break down complex arrangements and explain the pros and cons is embraced by millions of readers and she frequently speaks on radio and television. As Principal of Aged Care Gurus she oversees a national network of specialist financial advisers. Rachel holds a Masters in Financial Planning and has written several books including the best seller “Aged Care, Who Cares?”

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Comments
  1. Home Care Package. I wish that I had seen this article before it may have saved me a few headaches. I hopefully have most things sorted out now as I have a level 2 package which seems to be working ok. Hopefully! Thanking you!

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