Why and how has aged care changed?

In July 2014 the Federal Government started changing the aged care system. The last changes will be completed in January 2017 but the impact will still be coming into effect out to 2022.

Why is the system changing? Cost and choice.
  • More of us are growing old 
  • We are living longer with poor health
  • New medicines are good news but expensive
  • Fewer care workers will cost more
  • It’s cheaper for us to have care at home 
  • We want to age at home as long as possible
How does the new system change things? In summary:
1. You have to pay for your aged care if you can afford it

Aged care is now means tested. Your wealth (including the family home) will decide how much you have to ‘top up’ what the Government will pay for in home care and for your aged care bed. 

2. The government is taking far more control

You can’t get government funded home care or an aged care bed unless you:

  • Register at the Government’s my aged care call centre (1800 200 422) or myagedcare.gov.au web site
  • Complete a Government Income and Assets Test
  • Be assessed by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) 
  • Your paperwork has to be exactly right at every step
3. Everything takes longer – allow 12 weeks minimum
  • You will need to put a lot of time aside to collect all the personal and legal paperwork together 
  • Each Government application takes weeks to process
  • Aged care services are stretched – it takes time to find what you want when you want it
  • You may have to come up with cash to pay and the amounts may be larger than you are prepared for at short notice

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View transcript of video here
Our 101 Must Do Steps 1 - 9

The aged care system has changed. You now have to pay part of your aged care costs. Everyone has to register in the system and reveal how much wealth we have. This means forms and legal documents. You can’t move forward without them.

Go to Step 1: Get Informed

You can’t talk to the aged care system or banks or others unless you have ‘capacity’, meaning you can prove you are mentally healthy, or you have ‘permission’ if you are representing someone else. Both require medical or legal documents.

You have to then establish a ‘client record’ at the my aged care call centre or web site. You need documents with you to do this. Allow 2 weeks to collect them together and up to a week to successfully complete the my aged care process. 

Go to Step 2: Get Set Up

You need to organize an ACAT assessment to decide how much care support you need. You book an appointment through the my aged care call centre or web site. An assessor comes to your home (or hospital). You can’t really talk to any aged care homes (nursing homes) until you have the assessment results. Unless a genuine emergency, allow up to 6 weeks to have the appointment and 2 weeks for the results to be mailed to you.

Go to Step 3: Get Assessed

Everybody has to complete the government’s 130 question Assets & Income test. The results tell you how much you have to pay for each aged care home (nursing home). The homes are unlikely to talk to you without this. You also have to work out what you can afford. You need access to bank accounts, legal documents and many other pieces of information.

Go to Step 4: Understanding the Costs

Your ACAT assessment will let you know the services that you require and that the Government will contribute to the costs. Not every home has all services. Location can be a big factor – close to family or transport. You will need to narrow down the search by elimination.

Go to Step 5: Searching for an Aged Care Home (nursing home)

Aged Care Operators Checking out the operator of your chosen home is important. They are being handed responsibility for medical and emotional care. Each has a unique range of services that may also incur costs.

Go to Step 6: Get to Know the Operators

There are four separate fees and costs you may have to pay. Depending on your wealth will decide if you can afford your first, second or third choice of homes. Most homes also have less than 5% vacancies, each with different services, which you may not need. You will likely make multiple applications to homes to find what you can afford and want.

Go to Step 7: Apply to an Aged Care Home (nursing home)

You will be entering a contract that requires a financial commitment by you. It will need to be negotiated. You may need to prove that you can pay the contract commitments of ongoing costs – that may last into several years. You may be asked for additional legal documents for the home’s files covering medical intervention.

Go to Step 8: Signing Agreements

You may have to raise money to pay daily fees plus a possible large lump sum, usually requiring the sale of the family home. Respect and emotions are often challenged, requiring time. Documents, preparing the home and the sale require time.

Go to Step 9: Moving to your Aged Care Home (nursing home)

Twelve weeks is really the minimum time required to navigate the aged care system and secure a place in a home.  If your need is urgent or the finance is complex professional help is available.

Kate Golder,

Director, Affinity Aged Care Financial Services

Since 2014 home care is made up of:
  1. Entry level: Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) or Home and Community Care (HACC) in VIC and WA.
  2. Complex, personalised level: Home Care Packages Programme

See the Home Care tab on the main menu for more information on Home Care in Australia. 

Since 2014 aged care home (nursing home) options are made up of:
  1. Transition care – short term after hospital (max.84 days)
  2. Respite care – short term break from home (max. 63 days a year)
  3. Residential aged care (permanent resident in an aged care home)
New measures of care and funding

The level of care and services you may need and the funding is now graded across three criteria:

  1. Activities of Daily Living
  2. Complex Health Care
  3. Behavior  

The assessment is made by a Government Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). There are about 190 teams across Australia. Your GP, a hospital social worker or you can book an ACAT assessment. See Section Get Assessed.

The ACAT assessment then dictates the Government funding of care services and homes that are available to you.

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A special thanks to our contributors



Caroline has a wealth of experience writing within the retirement and aged care sector and is a contributing journalist for the Villages.com.au and agedcare101 blog and accompanying newsletters.

Ian Horswill


Ian is a journalist, writer and sub-editor for the aged care sector, working at The DCM Group. He writes for The Weekly Source, agedcare101, villages.com.au and the DCM Institute fortnightly newsletter Friday. Ian is in daily contact with CEOs of retirement living, land lease and the aged care operations and makes a new contact every week. He investigates media releases, LinkedIn and Facebook for a good source for ideas for stories.

Lauren Broomham

Retirement and Aged Care Journalist

Lauren is a journalist for villages.com.au, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

Jill Donaldson


Jill has been practicing as a clinical physiotherapist for 30 years. For the last 13 years she has worked solely in the Aged Care sector in more than 50 metropolitan and regional facilities. Jill has also toured care facilities in the US and Africa and is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff who care for them. She researches and writes for DCM Media.

Chris Baynes

DCM Media, agedcare101

Chris has been a journalist and publisher in the retirement village and aged care sectors for 11 years. He has visited over 250 retirement villages and 50 aged care facilities both within Australia and internationally. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences plus is a frequent radio commentator.

Annie Donaldson

Nurse and Carer

Annie has a long career in both nursing and the media. She has planned and co-ordinated the medical support from both international TV productions and major stadium events. In recent years she has been a primary family carer plus involved in structured carer support.