All you need to know about ACAT assessments
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All you need to know about ACAT assessments

As you grow older, you may find it increasingly difficult to manage at home without assistance. This is where Australian government-funded services can help, whether you would like some help around the home, extra support for an elderly family member, or want to explore moving into an aged care home.

The first step to accessing government-funded services is applying for an assessment with an Aged Care Assessment Team (often called an ACAT assessment). While the thought of being assessed can seem daunting, try not to worry. The aim is not to ‘test’ you, but to understand your situation so you can receive assistance that suits your needs.

Here’s some information on ACAT assessments to help you learn more about the process.

What is an ACAT assessment?
How do I arrange an ACAT assessment?
How can I prepare for an ACAT assessment?
What happens in an ACAT assessment?
What questions are asked in an ACAT assessment?
I’ve had my ACAT assessment. What happens next?

Other FAQs about ACAT

What is the difference between an ACAT and RAS assessment?
What do I do if I’m not happy with the results of my ACAT assessment?
Does an ACAT assessment cost me anything?
Who is on the ACAT?
How long does it take to get an ACAT assessment once I apply?
What is an income and asset assessment?

What is an ACAT assessment?

Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACAT) are your connection with government-funded aged care services. In Victoria, they are called the Aged Care Assessment Services (ACAS), but the service is the same as ACAT.

If you are struggling to live at home without help, a member of an ACAT or ACAS team (typically a nurse or another healthcare professional) will come and visit you for a face-to-face home support assessment. They will talk to you about how you are coping, looking at factors such as:

  • Your health – your medical history
  • Your physical requirements – how well you can do daily activities
  • Your psychological needs – how you are feeling and going mentally
  • Your social needs – who is in your support network
  • Any special needs you have – including cultural needs, language issues or sexual preferences when it comes to care

This assessment is designed to help you and your family work out what kind of help you need. It also determines the type of service you may be eligible for, such as a Home Care Package, moving into an aged care home, or short-term care options.

ACAT assessments are free of charge. Throughout the assessment, you will have an opportunity to communicate your own thoughts and be listened to; this is an important part of the process. You won’t be forced to make any decisions, and you can have a friend or family member with you the whole time. You can also request an interpreter for the assessment, if you need one.

How do I arrange an ACAT assessment?

There are two ways you can arrange an ACAT assessment for yourself or a loved one:

  • You can get in touch with My Aged Care by calling 1800 200 422or applying online.
  • Your doctor, another health professional, social worker or family member can organise an assessment on your behalf. You will need to give them consent to do this for you, and consent to pass on your personal information.

The application process takes around 15 to 20 minutes. If you are applying yourself, make sure you have your Medicare card handy. You will need to provide details about yourself, such as:

  • Your aged care needs and any services you currently receive
  • Your health concerns
  • Any medical assessments and service referrals you’ve had
  • How you are currently managing at home

Once your details have been registered with My Aged Care, you will be referred to your local ACAT for a face-to-face assessment. A member of that team will give you a call to arrange a time to visit, usually within 3 weeks of making your application. They may also ask you for permission to talk to your doctor to discuss your medical history before your assessment.

Would you like help applying for an ACAT assessment? HomeCaring is available to help you or your loved one navigate the ACAT assessment process, especially if English is your second language. To chat to someone about your needs, please call for a free consultation.

How can I prepare for an ACAT assessment?
You can have someone with you for the assessment, so think about whether you would like a family member or friend present for support. You will need to have with you:

  • Your Medicare card
  • Another form of identification, such as your driver’s licence, passport, DVA card or healthcare card
  • A copy of any referrals from your doctor
  • Contact details for your doctor and other health professionals you regularly see
  • Any medical and care information that may be relevant
  • Information about any support you currently receive

The ACAT assessment is an opportunity for you to learn about what care options are available to you, and how they work. You may want to prepare a list of questions to ask the assessor, such as:

  • What services are available in my area?
  • What are the wait times like?
  • Are there any service providers that suit my cultural background, or who speak my language?
  • How can I get in touch if I have questions after my assessment?
  • How long will it take to get a report of my assessment?
  • What do I do if I’m unhappy with the results of my assessment?
What happens in an ACAT assessment?
It’s normal to feel nervous about getting assessed. Remember that the aim is not to ‘test’ you, but to learn about your situation so you can receive the help you need.

Once you apply for an assessment, ACAT will give you a call to arrange a time to visit your home (or at hospital, if you have been admitted). In most cases, only one ACAT member will come to your home to conduct the assessment. They will consult with the other team members afterwards, using information they gathered through the assessment to make recommendations.

You can have a loved one with you during this visit for support. This can be handy, as they can help you remember information and ask any questions you may have forgotten. Usually, an assessment is between 45 minutes and 75 minutes long, although the time can vary.

What questions are asked in an ACAT assessment?
At the start of your ACAT assessment, you will be formally asked if you want to apply for approval to receive aged care services. If you agree, you will be asked to sign an application form (or you can give someone permission to sign it on your behalf). Your assessor may also ask for permission to talk to people who currently support you, such as family members.

You will then be asked a range of questions, with the aim of working out what your care needs are. The assessor may ask you about:

  • Your health – any medical needs you have, your physical and cognitive health, any memory issues you may have
  • If any safety improvements could be made in your home
  • Your physical needs – how you cope with daily activities such as showering, dressing, moving around, cooking, cleaning andshopping
  • Your psychological needs – how you are feeling, if you have experienced any mental illness, if you have experienced depression, how you are coping mentally
  • Your social needs – who is in your support network, whether you have friends or family nearby, your hobbies, whether you are able to take part in activities that interest you
  • Special needs and concerns – e.g. religious beliefs, cultural practices, languages you speak, recognition of your sexuality
  • Any aged care support you currently receive

The assessor will also provide you with information such as the kind of services available to you, any related costs, and where you can access information about aged care. You will have an opportunity to ask any questions and communicate any views you have about your care. They will also talk to you about whether you would like to keep living in your own home, and how that could potentially work.

Once your assessment is finished, the assessor will tell you what will happen next so you know what to expect. They will take your information back to the other members of the ACAT, so they can make a decision about the type and level of care you are eligible for. Your personal and medical information will be kept strictly confidential.

Remember: you always have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. If you are unhappy with the way an ACAT assessment went, you can make a complaint on the My Aged Care website.

I’ve had my ACAT assessment. What happens next?
After your face-to-face assessment, your team will take some time to review the information collected and to compile a report. This usually takes up to 2 weeks.

The report will tell you the government-funded services you have approved for; the reasons for this decision; and any conditions that are attached. If your assessment approves you for residential aged care, you will receive a support plan outlining the care you are approved to receive. If you are approved for a Home Care Package, your letter will state which level of funding you are eligible for (levels 1 to 4 are available, ranging from basic care to support for high level needs).

You make the final decision to accept or reject an ACAT assessment recommendation.

Being approved for a Home Care Package

If you have been approved for a Home Care Package, you will be given a unique referral code, and be given 56 days to choose your service provider. You will need this referral code to enter into a Home Care Agreement with your chosen provider.

Please note that it can take between 3 to 12 months for a Home Care Package to become available. If your needs are urgent, you may be able to receive government funding for aged care from the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) while you are on the waiting list.

What is the difference between an ACAT and RAS assessment?
You may have heard the about ACAT and RAS assessments, and been unsure about what they refer to. ACAT stands for Aged Care Assessment Team and RAS stands for Regional Assessment service. Both teams carry out face-to-face assessments for government-funded aged care services, but for different levels of support.

When you get in touch with My Aged Care, they will quickly assess whether you are likely to need low or high levels of support. If it sounds like you need low levels of support to manage at home, they may recommend an RAS assessment to apply for support through the Commonwealth Home Support Program.

If it sounds like your care needs are more significant, they may recommend a more comprehensive ACAT assessment. This will help determine if you are eligible for a Home Care Package, aged care home funding or a short-term care.

To be eligible for a Home Care Package or government-funded services for placement in an aged care home, you must be approved by an ACAT assessment.

What do I do if I’m not happy with the results of my ACAT assessment?
If you are not happy with your ACAT recommendation, your first step is to talk to your ACAT assessor and discuss your issues directly with them.

If you cannot come to a resolution, you can appeal the ACAT decision and have it reviewed. To do this, you need to write to the Secretary of the Australian Government Department of Health within 28 days of receiving your assessment report. The request should be answered within 90 days with a decision. For more information on this process, visit the My Aged Care website.

Does an ACAT assessment cost me anything?
No – the face-to-face ACAT assessment is free of charge.

Who is on the ACAT?
ACAT (or ACAS in Victoria) is an aged care assessment team made up of medical and allied health professionals who assess your needs to determine the most appropriate level of support. They usually consist of a nurse, an allied health professional (such as a physiotherapist or occupational therapist) and a social worker.

ACATs are usually based in your local hospital or community health service centre, and are available all throughout Australia.

How long does it take to get an ACAT assessment once I apply?
It can take up to 6 weeks to get an ACAT assessment once you apply, depending on how urgent your situation is. If your situation is urgent because you are at risk of harm or in a crisis situation, an ACAT assessment can be done within 2 days.

Once you have done the face-to-face assessment, it takes around 2 weeks for the assessor to write a report.

What is an income and asset assessment?
Alongside having an ACAT assessment, you may need to undergo a separate assessment to determine if you are eligible for government help with the cost of aged care services.

This assessment, referred to as an income and asset assessment, is done by the Department of Human Services (or if you’re a member of the veteran community, by the Department of Veteran Affairs). It determines how much you can afford to contribute towards the cost of your aged care services. Without it, you will be charged the maximum fee for your residential or home care services.

It can take time to complete the forms needed for your assessment, and up to 6 weeks to receive confirmation of your eligibility for government assistance, so it’s best to start this process as early as you can.

What if I need help now and can’t wait?

If you are waiting for a Home Care Package but need help urgently, there are some options available:

  • You may be able to get help sooner through an interim package, which offers a lower level of support than the Home Care Package you’re approved to receive. This means you’ll be able to access care services while you wait for your package to be allocated. Your ACAT assessor will discuss this option with you.
  • You can seek help through the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), which provides entry-level services to help you around the home. An ACAT assessment may cover you for both the CHSP and a Home Care Package, at the assessor’s discretion.
  • Another option is exploring service providers that are not funded by the government, where you pay the full cost for your care.

Do you want to apply for an ACAT assessment, but not sure where to start? HomeCaring can help you navigate the process, and provide care services once you have been approved. Our exceptional services aim to put you first, so that you are always in control of your care. For more information, please get in touch.

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