A real-life journey to obtain a Home Care Package

Home Care worker with older lady

In Australia, we are fortunate that many seniors can access a government-funded Home Care Package, allowing them to stay safely in their own homes for longer. However, navigating the path to obtaining a Home Care Package can be a winding and, at times, confusing journey. I discovered this as I assisted my mother through the many steps to receive Home Care and I hope by sharing my story, it will help you to find a reasonably clear path.

What is a Home Care Package?

Home Care Packages are a government-funded program designed to provide a range of support services for older Australians to help them continue living at home safely and comfortably. These packages are divided into four levels, each offering different levels of care and funding.

The funding is used to provide a range of services, such as personal care, domestic assistance, and transport services, as well as funding for home modifications and assistive technology.

When care needs change

My mother has lived independently, on her own, in a retirement village for almost 12 years. She loves her life in the village, including the many friendships she has with her neighbours and the sense of community she feels. She often tells me she never wants to live anywhere else, and I truly hope she can live there forever. Realistically though, as she ages, there are things that make living on her own more difficult.

Suffering from arthritis and bursitis, she has had a few falls; she also has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Forced to give up driving, she’s no longer able to pop to the shops for milk and bread or visit friends outside of the village like she once could. Cleaning her bathroom and scrubbing the shower, has become an almost impossible task. I would love to be able to drop in and help her with these tasks, but unfortunately, I live interstate.

Functionally (and cognitively), she had declined to a point that I decided it was time to look for options. At first, I didn’t even realise Home Care Packages were available, until I heard about them from someone else and then my mother’s geriatrician referred her for one. I thought this would be a perfect way for my mum to continuing living in her beloved home with some assistance.

Asking for help

The hardest part of the Home Care journey is admitting that help is needed. Like many of her generation, my mother is a proud and stoic woman. She felt that she was coping perfectly fine (and in many ways she was), and she believed that Home Care was for people more frail than herself. After many conversations, discussing how it could assist her and realising that many of her friends in the village already had a Home Package, my mum finally relented.

By the time we realised and recognised that my mum needed the assistance of a Home Care Package, we discovered that we should have started the process about 12 or more months earlier. Unfortunately, this is a common situation. Needing the help right away, we decided to hire a private cleaner to help her until we could obtain a Home Care Package.


The first step towards receiving a Home Care Package is to register with My Aged Care. This process is simple and takes just a phone call or visit online. I also registered with My Aged Care to become mum’s registered representative, as she felt overwhelmed by the process. This was also simple to do over the phone, with my mum’s permission. Everyone registering with My Aged Care should consider setting up a representative, who is generally a trusted family member. Once this is in place, the representative can set up online access to the person’s My Aged Care record and assessment information, which is particularly useful in helping to manage their services, whether now or in the future.

Once you have registered, My Aged Care will ask and few questions and decide if an assessment is required. In my mum’s case, she had a referral from her geriatrician, so she was told she would require an assessment.

A week or so later, my mum received a phone call from the assessor who did a brief assessment over the phone. Unfortunately, my mum didn’t really understand what the call was, believing it was the private cleaner we had organised, so just told them that all was fine and she just liked having the bathroom cleaned.

Unbeknown to myself, the ACAT assessor put her on the Commonwealth Home Support Program, which is the entry-level home care support program that many people access prior to being approved for a home care package. Through this she was eligible to receive some light cleaning once a fortnight. I was also unaware that that the assessor decided that she didn’t require an in-person assessment. I hadn’t received any of this information and still thought that a further assessment would occur to determine her eligibility.


Due to a huge demand in her area, it took around two months to find someone who could clean for my mum under the Commonwealth Home Support Program. After waiting many weeks, I called back the ACAT assessor to see when the in-person assessment would occur. I was told that a decision was made not to have one, that my mum was fine with the Commonwealth Home Support Program.

Flabbergasted, I mentioned the referrals from her specialist that said she required assistance to safely remain at home, that my mum hadn’t understood what the phone call was about and that I believed she needed an assessment. Finally, they agreed that an in-person assessment was required and an assessor was sent out a few weeks later. I ensured that my brother was there during the assessment, to make sure that my mum conveyed her situation accurately and also so he could gather the information provided by the provider.

During the assessment, I was also able to join by phone and add in further bits of information, to paint a full picture of my mum’s situation. The assessor who came out was lovely and immediately recognised that a home care package would be beneficial.


Within a week we had received word that mum was approved for a level 2 Home Care Package, which would give approximately six hours of care per fortnight. After waiting many months to have an assessment, we were very grateful to have been approved so quickly, as I had heard it could take up to eight weeks.

While she had been approved, this did not mean she could start receiving care straight away; we needed to wait until her Home Care Package had been allocated, the timeline for which varies from person to person (depending on the priority level assigned by the ACAT assessor).

We used this time to speak to Home Care providers in her area, discuss with them the type of services they could provide and how their fee structures worked. We also spoke to Services Australia to confirm if she had to pay any contributions.

Home Care Package allocated

About two months after receiving her approval letter, we were informed that her Home Care Package had been allocated. This meant we could sign a contract with our chosen Home Care Provider and finally start receiving services.

We had 56 days to sign a contract, but as we knew exactly who we wanted to go with and they had availability, my mum was able to start receiving services just a week later. This is why it’s important to plan and discuss exactly what you require with your chosen provider.

Receiving care and being re-assessed

My mum has really enjoyed getting to know her carer. They go shopping to get all her groceries, the carer takes her to appointments, she sets up a whiteboard schedule so mum can keep track of her days and always makes sure her bathroom is kept clean. Having these services means mum can feel independent and not like she needs to rely on family and friends to help with daily chores.

Since she started receiving services, mum’s care needs have increased, so we are now in the process on have her re-assessed, with a view to upgrading her package to a higher level (which provides more funding and the ability to increase services). Her Home Care provider has been able to help with this, but we have still had to help ‘push’ along the ACAT assessor and had to wait. Fingers crossed!

What I’ve learnt

  • Don’t be afraid to acknowledge that you need assistance
  • Start the process early
  • Don’t be afraid to call, enquire and follow up – things can get lost in the system
  • Arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible – read, speak to friends, ask for guidance
  • Not all Home Care providers are the same; speak to a range to find the ones that can provide you with the most suitable services
  • If my mum had lived in a RetireAustralia village, she would have had access to the RetireAustralia Home Care team, who could have helped with the process from the beginning.

RetireAustralia Home Care is offered in many of our villages, providing services to make life easier, so as your needs change, you can remain safely in your home. RetireAustralia Home Care offers residents the same trust, familiarity, and feeling of ‘home’ that they already have about their village.

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