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Aged Care Guide

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Aged Care Guide & Information

The Commonwealth Government regulates the provision of residential aged care for people who can no longer live independently in their own home. It also subsidizes the cost of residential aged care that is provided to approved recipients by approved providers.

The primary legislation is the Aged Care Act 1997.

If you need help and are wondering whether you are eligible for residential aged care or other services, the first thing to do is to arrange an appointment with your local Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT), which may be called an Aged Care Assessment Service in Victoria. There is no charge for an ACAT assessment.

ACATs usually comprise or include local doctors, nurses, social workers and other health professionals who can assess whether you are eligible to receive residential aged care. Even if you are not eligible, an ACAT may be able to suggest other options, such as getting help so that you can continue to live independently at home.

In the past, a distinction was drawn between aged care homes that offered “high level care” (which were commonly known as “nursing homes”) and those that offered “low level care” (which were commonly known as “hostels”). From 1 July 2014 this distinction has ceased to apply in relation to permanent residential aged care, although it does continue to apply in relation to temporary respite care.

Once your eligibility for residential aged care has been confirmed by an ACAT, you can apply to any aged care homes you are interested in. With the removal of the distinction between “high levelAged Care Guide care” and “low level care” referred to above, it is important to make sure that the aged care homes that you consider offer the particular care and services that you require and may need in the future.

All aged care homes have their own application process and you will be asked to submit an application form. Aged care homes may take several matters into account before they offer you a place, even if there is a vacancy. These may include:

  • your care needs
  • their current residents (some aged care homes cater for particular groups, such as veterans, people from particular ethnic or cultural backgrounds or people with particular health conditions, such as dementia)
  • their financial and business needs (these words were taken directly from the MyAgedCare website, but we have not yet managed to work out what they really mean).

How Do You Find The Right Aged Care Home?

You can find and review aged care homes across Australia by searching our aged care home directory. Just click, hover or tap (depending on your device) on the “Aged Care” tab in the navigation bar at the top of the page. The listings include photos, contact details, website links and a description of the services that are available.

More Information?

Please see the following pages of this Aged Care Guide for further information:

  1. Overview
  2. Eligibility and Assessment
  3. Fees and Charges
  4. Accreditation Standards and Compliance
  5. Resident Rights and Responsibilities
  6. Residential Respite Care
  7. Advocacy and Complaint Resolution

Aged Care Hostels and Nursing Homes – Low and High Level Residential CareAged Care Guide & Information

The Commonwealth Government regulates and partly funds the provision of residential aged care for frail older people who can no longer live independently in their own home. There are two levels of aged care and although they are officially called “low level residential care” and “high level residential care” they are still widely known and referred to as “hostels” and “nursing homes”, respectively.

Before you can enter a hostel or nursing home you must be assessed and approved for care by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). ACATs are generally made up of local doctors, nurses, social workers and the like and they are usually located at hospitals, aged care centres or community centres. In appropriate circumstances they can see you in your own home or in hospital in order to make an assessment.

Care and Services

Residential aged care facilities must provide the following “Specified Care and Services”

  • accommodation services – to all residents irrespective of their level of care
  • low level care services – to all residents irrespective of their level of care
  • high level care services – to high level care residents only.

Accommodation services include

  • administration, including resident documentation
  • basic accommodation related services, such as furnishings
  • bedding
  • general laundry, towels, washers, soap and toilet paper
  • cleaning services
  • maintenance of buildings and grounds
  • staff continuously on call to provide emergency assistance
  • meals, including special dietary requirements.

Low level care services are personal care type services. They include

  • assistance with the activities of daily living such as bathing, toileting, eating, dressing, mobility and communication
  • certain treatments and procedures, including assistance with medication
  • recreational therapy and rehabilitation support
  • assistance in accessing health and therapy services
  • support for people who have difficulty understanding.

High level care services are nursing type services and additional personal care services. They include

  • specialised furnishings and equipment items, such as those used to assist mobility, eg. walking frames, wheelchairs, lifting devices
  • basic medical and pharmaceutical supplies and equipment and aids to assist with toileting and continence management
  • nursing procedures
  • administration of medication
  • provision of therapy services
  • oxygen and oxygen equipment on a short term or episodic basis.

Continence aids must be provided free of charge only for high level care residents. Low level care residents who need continence aids may make arrangements with the hostel to provide them for an additional charge. Alternatively, residents may obtain their own supplies.

Veterans and war widow(er)s may be entitled to additional services through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (link below).

Fees and Charges


When you move from your home to a residential aged care facility, your (changed) circumstances can affect your pension and the amount you pay for care. It is therefore a good idea to seek professional financial advice and it is a good idea to do this in advance so that your affairs can be structured so as to obtain the best outcome. The free Financial Information Service (13 2300) may be a good place to start.

Most payments for Commonwealth Government funded residential aged care services are GST-free. GST is generally only payable to the extent that a payment relates to additional discretionary services, such as hairdressing, where the supplier is registered or is required to be registered for GST.


Depending on the hostel and your personal and financial circumstances, you may be asked to pay:

  • a basic daily fee
  • an additional daily fee
  • an accommodation bond
  • an extra service fee.

Nursing Homes

Depending on the nursing home and your personal and financial circumstances, you may be asked to pay:

  • a basic daily care fee
  • an additional daily care fee
  • an accommodation charge, or in some cases an accommodation bond
  • an extra service fee.

Medical Expense Tax Offset

The following expenses may qualify for the medical expenses tax offset (ATO link below):

  • daily fee
  • additional daily fees
  • extra service fees
  • accommodation charges / periodic payments of accommodation bonds / amounts retained from accommodation bonds paid as a lump sum.

Quality Safeguards

A number of safeguards have been put in place to ensure that residents receive adequate quality of care and services.


Hostels and nursing homes must satisfy a set of Accreditation Standards in order to receive Government funding. The standards relate to matters such as health, personal care, lifestyle, safety and quality of buildings and surroundings, and management and organisational development. Once accredited, hostels and nursing homes are regularly monitored to ensure continued compliance.

Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency

This independent agency manages the accreditation process, assists hostels and nursing homes to improve the quality of care and services, and refers transgressors to the Department of Health and Ageing for corrective action. You can contact the agency (see below) to find out how a particular facility is rated.

The Aged Care Complaints Resolution Scheme 

This scheme allows residents to make complaints about issues that cannot be resolved with staff and management of the facility. It is operated by the Department of Health and Ageing and is overseen by an independent Commissioner for Complaints. Anyone can make a complaint about anything that may constitute a breach of the service providers responsibilities to past or present residents. Complaints can be kept confidential or anonymous. You can also complain to the responsible manager or the National Commissioner for Complaints if you are not satisfied with the operation of the scheme.

Advocacy Services

These services are provided free of charge to help people exercise their rights. Information, advice, support and representation can be provided to residents and their carers or other representatives on a confidential basis.

Community Visitors Scheme

This scheme facilitates regular friendly visits for isolated or lonely residents.

Internet Links

The Department of Health and Ageing has created the Aged Care Australia website, which is without doubt the most comprehensive source of information regarding aged care in Australia.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Australian Taxation Office: Information about Medical Expenses Tax Offsets

Telephone Numbers

Aged Care Information Line

1800 500 853

Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency

Victoria / Tasmania:
Western Australia:
South Australia / Northern Territory:
(02) 9633 2099
(03) 9897 4322
(07) 3852 3100
(08) 9201 1344
(08) 8272 3766

Aged Care Complaints Resolution Scheme

1800 550 552

Advocacy Services

NSW- The Aged-Care Rights Service:
Victoria- Residential Care Rights:
Queensland- Aged and Disability Advocacy:
Western Australia- Advocare:
South Australia- Aged Rights Advocacy Service:
Tasmania- Advocacy Tasmania Inc:
Northern Territory- Darwin Community Legal Service:
Northern Territory- Alice Springs Centacare:
ACT- Disability, Aged and Carers Advocacy Service:
(02) 9281 3600 or 1800 424 079
(03) 9602 3066 or 1800 133 312
(07) 3637 6000 or 1800 818 338
(08) 9479 7566 or 1800 655 566
(08) 8232 5377 or 1800 802 030
(03) 6224 2240 or 1800 005 131
(08) 8982 1111 or 1800 812 953
(08) 8953 3177 or 1800 354 550
(02) 6242 5060

Commonwealth Carelink Centre

1800 052 222

Financial Information Service

13 2300

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