Mum Needs to Move in to Residential Aged Care – Where on Earth Do I Start?

Aged care decisions are complicated and the stakes are high.

You are dealing with the shock and emotion that your Mum (or Dad) now needs to move into an aged care facility, but also have no idea what you need to do first.

Navigating the aged care system can be daunting.

However there is a process and if you follow these steps then things will be easier. And to ensure that Mum’s in the best financial position, make sure you get help to review and optimise that side of things – before completing the Combined Assets and Income Assessment.

  1. Southern Cross Aged Care Financial Advice - worried daughter

    Get permission to act on her behalf

  2. Register your Mum with MyAgedCare
  3. Have her care needs assessed (ACAT)
  4. Understand Aged Care Fees
  5. Organise her Finances
  6. Complete the Combined Assets and Income Assessment
  7. Look for a Residential home
  8. Apply for the aged care home/facility of your choice
  1. Get permission to act on her behalf

Firstly, you will need Mum’s permission if you are going to represent her during the process and manage the finances. Is there an Enduring Power of Attorney and Guardianship document in place? If so ensure you have copies of the paperwork. Otherwise you can consult a legal professional to organise this now.

  1. Register your Mum with MyAgedCare

Your Mum will need a client number to get started. Register her with MyAgedCare either online or by calling 1800 200 422.

You will need permission to represent her with MyAgedCare. If she is able she can sit with you during the call to give verbal permission, or if dementia or other health issues preclude this, you will need to provide the above legal documents to become her representative.

You’ll also need her Medicare number. There will be a series of questions and it should take roughly 30 minutes. Your Mum will be referred for an assessment of her needs (ACAT).

  1. Have her care needs assessed (ACAT)

Elderly lady sleepingA health professional may refer her for the assessment although you can also call the MyAgedCare contact centre directly yourself.

The Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) will come to your Mum to review her care needs. You can be there with her if she prefers. They’ll review her medical requirements and her physical, psychological and social needs, to determine what care and services she may be eligible for. These include residential, home care packages, short term respite or transition care (for example, for a short time after coming out of hospital).

It will take about 2 weeks for the ACAT report to arrive, which you will need in order to look for the right aged care facility. In the meantime, start to organise the finances.

  1. Understand Aged Care Fees  

You shouldn’t have to worry about being able to afford the care your loved one needs as fees are means-tested. If there is no money at all then the Commonwealth government may cover the costs; you can make a financial hardship application.

The main fees are:

  • Basic daily fee – this applies to everyone
  • Means-tested care fee – an additional fee if you have the ability to pay, and the amount depends upon your income and assets
  • Accommodation fees – also means-tested, these vary depending on the type of room and facilities at the home. It can be paid in 3 ways:
    • a lump sum Refundable Accommodation Deposit (RAD)
    • an ongoing Daily Accommodation Payment (DAP)
    • a combination of both
    • but you don’t have to decide straight away; for example you can move in and pay daily for up to 28 days, until a decision is made about ongoing payment.
  • There may be additional fees, either ongoing (for example for a larger room, additional meal choices and leisure activities) or on a fee-for-service basis (hairdressers, outings and so on).

Means testing, or the Combined Assets and Income Assessment, is carried out either by the Department of Human Services or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Before completing this Assessment you should seek financial advice from a specialist aged care adviser on how best to structure your Mum’s finances. There may be a range of strategies and choices and each one has the potential to affect her Assessment – and therefore her pension entitlements and fees.

  1. Organise her Finances

You or your Mum may have already put plans in place for this eventuality, or you may have recently started thinking about it. But if not, now is the time! It’s a complex area and you want to ensure that you make the most of her income and entitlements.

The most common questions are:

  • How can we afford the refundable accommodation deposit (RAD)?
  • If we sell the house will Mum lose her age pension?
  • Will there be enough regular income to cover ongoing fees and expenses?
  • How long will the money last?
  • Will her fees be covered by the government if her savings are very low?
  • Will she have anything left in her estate?

Rushed decisions can lead to expensive mistakes, which makes this process all the more fraught for busy people who are simply looking to do the right thing by their parent.

With specialist financial advice, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that, whatever your Mum’s financial situation in the first place:

  • her income and entitlements are maximised
  • her outgoings are minimised
  • there is a projection for how long her money will last, and
  • there may be money left which she can pass on to her estate

The legislation around aged care fees, tax, pensions and estate planning is complex and ever-changing, and most financial planners don’t work or specialise in the aged care space. With specialist guidance on opportunities unique to your situation, you will be able to make informed decisions to make the most of your Mum’s financial situation and secure the right care.

  1. Complete the Combined Assets and Income Assessment (means testing)

You can complete the Combined Assets and Income Assessment (SA457) form by downloading it from the MyAgedCare website or calling the Department of Human Services on 1800 227 475 and they will post one to you. If it’s for both Mum and Dad, they will each have to complete an Assessment.

It takes 4-6 weeks for the results to come through, but in the meantime your Mum can still move into an aged care home if necessary.

Some families with more means may decide not to complete the Assessment, thinking that they’ll have to pay full fees anyway – but this can have unintended and expensive consequences, even down to which residential homes you are able to apply to.

  1. Look for a residential home

Southern Cross Aged Care Financial Advice - care home and carerChoosing the best aged care home for your Mum – this is such an emotional time and you want her to be safe, comfortable, and happy. You also need her to have appropriate, affordable care, in a location that is easy for you and other family members to visit.

You can look on the government’s MyAgedCare website to locate aged care facilities near you with the services you need, and see if there are any vacancies. You can then visit their websites, give them a call – and narrow down the list to those you wish to visit. Look into who the operator is, the home’s facilities and services, and fees. Remember aged care facilities will have different rooms available at different rates, depending on the size and type of room and facilities that come with it.

When you visit, make sure you have a list of questions you would like answered – and make notes while you’re there. It’s also a good idea to visit on different days, or different times of day, to see the levels of staffing, care or activity and if this varies over the week.

Aged care facilities are regulated by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) and you can look up accreditation reports online. You’re entering a legal contract with the operator and you need to feel comfortable with the environment and facilities available for your loved one. And the level of care.

  1. Apply for the aged care facilities of your choice

You can apply directly to each facility you are interested in and they should respond within a couple of days. Remember:

  • You can apply for more than one home at the same time, if you are not yet sure.
  • If there is no place available you can put your Mum’s name on waiting lists, if you don’t need somewhere immediately.
  • You can change your mind – you are not obliged to accept a place that is offered.
  • If you accept a place you are still entitled to move to a different aged care facility later, or return home if that becomes possible.

Getting Help

Cutting through the complexity of the aged care system

Try not to panic – MyAgedCare provides helpful information at each stage, and we will guide and support you through the process.

Many financial planners don’t cover aged care due to the complex and ever-changing legislation. But aged care is an area of expertise at Southern Cross Financial Planning – we will show you how to structure your Mum’s finances for the best outcome, now and into the future.

We have helped many people over the years, so we know exactly how you feel – and what to do.

A rational, objective, and compassionate advocate for you, we know exactly what needs doing and when and will “hold your hand” as you navigate the aged care system, making things easier and clearer for you.

In addition we take on the bulk of the time consuming paperwork, so you have more time to focus on your family.

The first consultation is free – you then decide whether to continue or not.

Simply give Southern Cross a call today on 02 4058 1953 or click here to Contact Us and we will call you back.


John took away our worries

“When my partner needed to move into aged care we didn’t have any idea what was involved; nor did we understand the costs. But what John at Southern Cross Financial Planning did for us was fantastic. He took away our worries about the process and the finances.”

John, Gladesville (partner)


Southern Cross Aged Care Financial Advice - Grandmother and Grandson smilingPlanning Ahead

If you are lucky enough not to be in a crisis situation then please do think about having a conversation with your Mum or Dad about planning ahead for their future aged care needs and finances.

Although these are hard conversations to have, you will have more choices, more control and a better result if there is a plan in place for when the time comes.

You can read more about our Aged Care Financial Advice here.

General Advice Disclaimer: Information provided on this website is general in nature and does not constitute financial advice. While all reasonable care has been taken in providing this information, it should not be construed as being specific to your investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs. Click here to read our General Advice Disclaimer and No Advice Disclaimer in full.