Step 5: Accept a room
Once you have made your decision and have been offered a room (or are waiting for a room to be offered) there are some legal processes and actions you need to take to make the room yours. There is a lot of paperwork in this step, which can be quite daunting.
Negotiate an offer
If a room is available you can start the negotiation process. Or if a suitable room is not yet available, find out how long the wait time is likely to be and ask if they have a waiting list that you can be added to. If you are on the waiting list and are keen to secure a room, it might be a good idea to check in with the provider regularly.
The provider will ask to see a copy of your ACAT/ACAS report showing approval for permanent residential care or (temporary) respite care. If you have not yet arranged this assessment you can organise by contacting MyAgedCare.
When deciding whether to accept the offer of a room, you need to know the advertised room price – called a Refundable Accommodation Deposit (RAD). You cannot be asked to pay more than the published price, but you might be able to ask if the provider is willing to reduce the price. But here’s a tip – don’t just assume that a lower price is better. Your age pension may be impacted by how much you pay for your room and paying a higher amount (if affordable) might help to increase your age pension entitlements. Ask a financial planner for help or read up on the financial implications here.
Also ask the provider whether they charge an additional service fee for hotel style services and little luxuries as this is often a non-negotiable package fee. In some cases, you might be able to pick and choose the additional services you want.
When you get the call to say a room is available, the decision needs to be made quickly as the provider often can’t hold a room empty for more than a day or two while you make your decision. It is likely that other prospective residents are also waiting for an available room. If you are not quite ready to make the decision, the provider might be able to offer you a period of respite (temporary care) to give you more time. Find out more about respite. Your ACAT/ACAS form will need to show approval for residential respite care.
Review the legal contracts
Once you agree to accept the room you will be given the paperwork. The provider may package these documents into a welcome pack that includes:
- Application form – this allows the provider to collect your personal information and may include the provider’s own financial questionnaire
- Resident Agreement – the legal contract outlining the care and services to be provided, your initial fees and charges and the general conditions of entry
- Accommodation Agreement – this may be part of the Resident Agreement or a separate legal contract, detailing the expected date of entry to permanent care, the room price and options for payment, as well as amenities available for you to access.
- A Charter of Rights detailing the rights and responsibilities of the resident and also the care provider.
- Details of how concerns and complaints are handled.
It is important that you read these documents carefully. If you need help a lawyer can provide advice on legal contracts – but check that they have experience with aged care agreements.
Sign and accept
Once you have fully understood the Resident Agreement (and associated documents) you should be ready to sign on the dotted line. The documents can be signed by the person going into care or the Enduring Power of Attorney/Guardian or another family member.
The aged care resident is responsible for payment of their care and accommodation costs. However, many care providers may request a family member, or the person managing the resident’s money, to sign a personal guarantee. This makes the guarantor liable to pay any outstanding fees if the resident fails to make the payments. If agreed, this needs to be signed at the same time as the Resident Agreement.
When you sign, you are agreeing to the room price, but you don’t have to make a choice on whether you will pay it as a lump sum or a daily fee. You have 28 days after your entry date to make this choice. Some providers might try to push you to make the choice upfront, or want to include the decision on how to pay in the Resident Agreement. This is because the provider is trying to run a business, and managing their finances is important for staying in business. However, even though they might have a good reason, under the legislation they cannot force you to make a decision before the 28 days. It is a good idea to take your time to make your choice, to ensure you fully understand the implications.
If you do change your mind about moving in, you have 14-days to notify the provider (in writing) they you wish to withdraw from the agreement. This will cancel the contract and you only have to pay for any care received for the days you lived there.
When your fees commence
Your liability to pay fees will start on the day your room is available and you become a permanent resident. This should be specified in your Accommodation Agreement.
Things may have moved fast and you might not be read to move in. If you need a few days to get yourself ready, you can ask the provider to approve pre-entry leave. This allows you to sign the Agreement to secure your room and then gives you up to seven (7) days to make the physical move. During this seven days the provider can ask you to pay the basic daily fee, but none of the other fees start until you move in or this leave ends.
You should note that your Resident Agreement does not say how much your means-tested care fee will be. This can’t be confirmed until Services Australia do your means-test assessment AFTER you become a permanent resident. This assessment may take several weeks (or longer if you have complex finances), so the care provider is likely to charge an interim fee in the meantime. This can be quite high and put pressure on your cashflow. Ask the provider how they set this fee. If they do charge you too much, the excess will be refunded.
If you have not already done so, you will be asked to complete and submit the Services Australia financial assessment forms. This should be done quickly to avoid lengthy delays. If you receive a Centrelink/Veterans’ Affairs payment, also check your records to ensure everything on your file is accurate and up-to-date.
It is not uncommon for information to be lost in transit. Lodging documents electronically can help. It is a good idea to keep copies of all documents submitted and dates of submission. You should also keep copies of all correspondence for your records.