Step 3

How do I get an aged care (ACAT) assessment?

Before you can move into an aged care home you need to have an assessment to establish the level of care you need.  It’s called an ACAT everywhere, except Victoria where it’s called ACAS.

To get an ACAT assessment you will need to call My Aged Care who will place the ACAT referral for you.  We cover everything that My Aged Care will ask on this page.

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ACAT/ ACAS Assessment

An ACAT or ACAS assessment is also needed to:

  • have respite care in an aged care home (nursing home)
  • access transition care (a temporary stay after or sometimes before a time in hospital)

Plus:

  • receive aged care services through a Home Care Package

3.1 What is involved in an ACAT/ ACAS assessment?

The aim is to understand your situation and needs fully, so assessors will look at various things, including:

All this feeds into getting the type of care that is best for you

The good news is that you don't need to go anyway. The assessor comes to you.

Don't be concerned: you can have anyone you want to be with you during the assessment.

Don't be concerned, there is nothing to be afraid of and you can have anyone you want to be with you during the assessment.

Annie Donaldson

agedcare101 Registered Nurse, Carer

Who is on the Aged Care Assessment Team?

Aged Care Assessment Teams are usually made up of:

Often they are based in the local hospital or community health service centre.

How long does an ACAT/ACAS assessment take place?

An assessment will generally take between 45 minutes and 75 minutes.  And it usually takes another two weeks before the report arrives.  This is important because you need this report before you can start looking for an aged care home.

Do you have to pay for the ACAT assessment?

No, the ACAT assessment is free.  The good news is, it doesn't cost a cent.

Top Tip

You can get an emergency ACAT assessment meeting with as little as 48 hours notice.  Normally though it takes up to 6 weeks to have the assessment followed by another 2 weeks for the report.

3.2 How do you get an ACAT assessment?

Getting an ACAT Assessment 

There are two ways to get an ACAT/ ACAS assessment

You can:

My Aged Care contact centre

In many cases a health professional already involved in your care will refer you for an ACAT assessment. This might be your GP or nurse. If you are in hospital, it might be a social worker, for example.

The process needs to go through My Aged Care so that the ACAT referral is created from there. You (or your nominated decision-maker) need to give your health professional consent to do this on your behalf, including consent to pass on your personal information.

If you have a client number through My Aged Care then you should provide it.

If you have already been in touch with the My Aged Care Contact Centre it is likely that you will have organised some important legal arrangements in place and at least begun the process of setting up a My Aged Care client record (phone 1800 200 422 available 8am - 8pm Monday to Friday and 10am – 2pm Saturdays). 

A health professional can make the referral

Before recent changes to the aged care system, health professionals could refer you directly to an ACAT for assessment.  Now, they have to refer you to My Aged Care for the ACAT referral to be created from there. You need to give your health professional your consent to do this on your behalf, including consent to pass on your personal information.  If you are unable to make the decision, your nominated decision maker can do this on your behalf.

How long does it take to get an ACAT appointment?

How long you have to wait for your ACAT assessment will depend on how urgent your situation and need is.   The My Aged Care contact centre staff will determine that from the screening process when you create your client record; or in consultation with the referral from your health professional.  See: 2.5 create your client record.

Your need is urgent 

If your situation is deemed urgent – because you are at ‘high risk’ of harm or in a crisis situation – an ACAT assessor will be in contact within 48 hours.

Top Tip

If you urgently require an aged care home, you can get into one without an ACAT assessment.  The assessment can be done  afterwards.

Your need is moderate

If you are not at immediate risk of harm but have had deterioration in your physical or mental health; or your current level of care is no longer adequate, the ACAT assessment appointment could take between 3-14 days. 

Your need is manageable

If you are concerned about things getting more difficult for you but you’re still getting by on your own or with the support you currently have, you might have to wait longer than 14 days for your ACAT assessment.  This might also happen if you’re looking for respite care, for example if your carer needs to take a holiday.   

3.3 What can I expect in the ACAT assessment?

What happens before the ACAT assessment

After My Aged Care has referred you to an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) in your area, a member of the ACAT team will give you a call to make a time to come and see you.

Know that

The ACAT team may also ask your permission to talk to your doctor to discuss your medical history before they meet with you.

It’s normal to feel a bit anxious about the prospect of ‘getting assessed’, especially if you’ve been feeling below par anyway.

It helps to have a clear understanding of what will happen - and what won't happen - at your ACAT assessment.

Remember:

What will happen at the ACAT assessment?
  • whether you want to apply for approval to be able to receive certain aged care services; and
  • whether you give your permission for the assessment to take place 

Plus:

  • The person from the ACAT will explain the different kinds of service options to you and answer any questions you might have. If you agree to proceed, you will be asked to sign an application form. (You can give permission for someone else to sign on your behalf – see: 2.3. Legal permission to act on someone’s behalf

You will be asked some questions about your general situation and your health, including: 

  • how you are managing with your day-to-day living activities and whether you need help with any of them
  • what support and assistance you have from family and friends or others
  • how your general state of health is
  • what specific health conditions you have; 
  • what medications you are taking
  • whether you have any problems with your memory

The person from the ACAT will have a discussion with you and your carer about some of the options, including:

  • whether they think you might be able to keep living in your own home and how that could potentially work; 
  • if they think you might be better supported in an aged care home (nursing home)
  • your own views and preferences

The person from the ACAT will also give you information about the services that are available in your local area.

You will be given the opportunity to express your views, make additional comments or ask questions. You can do this any time.

The person from the ACAT who has conducted the assessment will tell you what will happen next.  This involves taking your assessment information back to the Aged Care Assessment Team to make a decision about the type and level of care they believe you are eligible for.

Your personal information, including your medical information, will be treated in confidence.

What won't happen at the ACAT assessment?
  • You won't be required to make any decisions at the time of the assessment
  • Your views and questions won't be criticied, rejected or ignored

Plus:

  • You won't be told the outcome of your assessment.  That will be determined afterwards by the ACAT, using the information from the assessment.  You will be advised then.
Remember

If you are not satisified with the way the ACAT assessment went for you, you can make a complaint.

Remember, you have the right to be treated with dignity and respect at all times.  If you are not satisfied with the way the ACAT assessment went for you, you can make a complaint.  The My Aged Care website has a complaints page that explains how you can do this.

It is possible that you will have more than one ACAT assessment over your aged care journey as your health and well-being requires increased levels of care support and government funding.

Annie Donaldson

agedcare101 Registered Nurse and carer

3.4 What can I expect after the ACAT Assessment?

After the ACAT Assessment

Once the assessment is completed, the ACAT will let you know the outcome in writing. 

This letter will specify:

  • the services that you have been approved for and any conditions they come with
  • the reasons for the decision, including specific evidence that the decisions are based on
  • information about your right to appeal the decision if you’re not happy with it (you have 28 days – see below)

Plus:

  • a name and contact number to call if you wish to discuss the decision

You will also be provided with:

  • information about service providers in your area that can provide the services you need

Plus:

Once the assessment is completed, the ACAT will let you know in writing. You should make and keep copies of these documents.

Have a question? Open our discussion forum

8 weeks
Time estimate to complete all of the tasks within this step, including all sub-steps.

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Retirement and Aged Care Journalist

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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.

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Annie Donaldson

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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.