Residential care

Step 1: Need residential care

When your care needs are greater than the support you can safely access (or afford) at home, the decision might be made to move into residential care. You might hear these referred to as nursing homes, but whatever the name used, you are finding a new home that has staff on-hand to help you live well and to support you with your day-to-day activities.

Get help – your decisions and things to do

Making the decision and moving-in involves a number of steps and some major decisions. It might seem like there is so much to do and it can be overwhelming, but the Fase3 Tool is here to help. Also think about your own social circles and who is available to help you make decisions, or take on some of the actions – this might include other family members, close friends, support professionals (such as your doctor or religious leaders) or community groups. ​

Understanding the financial aspects is important. This involves not just understanding the cost of entering care, but also the ongoing costs and how decisions you make will impact your ongoing costs and estate plans. Find as much information as you can, but for advice on how it comes together, your financial planner should be one of the key people who you engage to help with your decisions. Taking the worry out of the finances can remove some of the stress and help you make the right decisions. ​

Check whether your current financial planner is an Accredited Aged Care Professional™ or has the Financial Planning Association’s FPA Aged Care Specialist™ designation. If not, we can help you find someone who is experienced and accredited to give aged care advice by using the link below.

Look for these symbols

What is residential care?

Residential care bundles together accommodation and care support. ​

The expenses and responsibilities you used to have at home are all now looked after by the care provider. Staff are available to help with the daily tasks and care actions that you might have done yourself or your family and carers helped you with. These staff may have medical or care training to provide these care needs. If you have specific needs, such as dementia or a medical illness/condition, it is important to choose a provider who has the staff, equipment and amenities that you need. ​

A residential aged care service (nursing home) is the most common option, but you might also come across the variations of a muti-purpose service or supported residential service.

Residential aged care​ (nursing home)

Residential care is regulated by the Federal Government through the Department of Health and Aged Care, but your interactions (such as fee assessments) will be managed through Services Australia.​

Residential care services provide the following:

  • Help with your daily activities and personal care (ie meals, bathing, dressing, continence and mobility)​
  • Cleaning and laundry services​
  • Heating and cooling​
  • Basic furnishings for your room​
  • Entertainment and activities, and​
  • Nursing care, including medication administration and wound dressing.​

The aged care provider has to comply with the legislation under the Aged Care Act and is regularly audited to ensure they maintain adequate standards.

Muti-purpose services (MPS)

Rural areas may offer a combined hospital and aged care service – called a multi-purpose service. This allows better use of resources, with flexibility to meet your needs as they change. These services still come under the Aged Care Act, but each service can choose its own fee structure. Ask the care provider for more details. ​

Supported residential services (SRS)​

In Victoria and South Australia, some residential services come under State Government rules, not the Federal Aged Care rules. These are called Supported Residential Services. The Fase3 Tool can help you understand your choices and decisions, but the financial rules might be different as the MPS operator can choose its own fee structure. Ask the care provider for more details. ​

Retirement villages​

If you don’t need fully supported care, but are looking for more independent living – residential aged care is the wrong place to be looking. For information, visit the Retirement villages section.

Regulation and standards for residential care services

What is an approved provider?​

To be eligible for government subsidies, an organisation that provides aged care services must apply and meet the requirements to be an approved aged care provider. ​Providers must continue to meet the requirements, including satisfying regular audits, to continue to be an approved provider. These audits look at compliance with safety and quality.​

If you select care from an approved provider, and you have an ACAT/ACAS approval for that care, the government will subsidise your costs to make your care more affordable for you.

Is accredited different to approved?

Approved residential care providers need to meet the Quality Standards and be “accredited” to continue to receive subsidies. The providers are regularly audited to ensure they are meeting these standards. ​Find the Quality Standards here.

Who audits the providers?

Aged care providers are accredited and audited by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. Find out more here.

What are the Quality Standards?​

The Quality Standards define what good care looks like and give aged care providers a framework to ensure they deliver good care. Find out more here.

What is good care?​

The Quality Standards which define good care, include eight standards covering aspects of your care that contributes to your safety, health and well-being. ​

If you are receiving good care you should be well cared for by people who know their jobs, with staff who are friendly, respectful and respond to your needs. The care service should be well-run and you will have people to talk to about the things that matter to you.

The Aged Care Star Ratings can help you to compare and evaluate the quality of residential care providers. Find out more here.

Be prepared for the emotions

This is an emotional time. Some people are ready to make the move, but others are not. With the right planning and the right people to help you, the experience can be at least easier to understand and navigate. The stress is not only something experienced by the person needing care, but also by the broader family … and not least, a spouse who is being left at home.

The pathway steps

The residential care service that you choose is going to be your new home. It is important to choose somewhere that you will be comfortable and feel at home in, as well as ensuring the provider can meet your specific personal, care, cultural and spiritual needs. You need to be comfortable and safe. Ideally you should start this search long before you have reached the crisis that makes care urgent but if not, then everyone just needs to move more quickly.

There are a number of steps you need to take to make the right choices and decisions. We have broken this down to seven (7) key steps:

  • Step 1 – Identifying the need to move into residential care (current page)
  • Step 2 – Arrange an ACAT assessment to qualify for government subsidies
  • Step 3 – How to go about finding the right residential care service for you
  • Step 4 – Accept an offer of a room when one becomes available
  • Step 5 – Make financial decisions on affordability and funding
  • Step 6 – Make the move and settle in
  • Step 7 – Solving problems if things go wrong.

Making the choice to move into residential care was the first step, now work through the other steps.