Understanding the different options when looking at housing for the aged

2 June 2016

Retirement village, nursing home or somewhere else that provides care and does not charge an ongoing fee?  What is the difference and how do you tell them apart?  Which one is more suitable for you or your parent?  This article helps you to understand the options.

Aged Care Residential Facility (nursing home)

This is a facility regulated under the Aged Care Act (Commonwealth) to provide care for the elderly.  An elderly person needs an ACAS (Aged Care Assessment) to become a resident of an ACRF (Aged Care Residential Facility).  The care in an ACRF is subsidised by the Federal Government. Accommodation Payments (formerly known as bonds) must be paid for residing in an ACRF unless the resident does not have sufficient assets to pay an accommodation payment. This option can be good for people who are unable to care for themselves at home.

Retirement Village

These are units or apartments regulated under State legislation.  Whilst they can be an excellent option for older people, they are not accredited aged care providers.  They may have on site serviced apartments or bring in services to assist elderly residents.  Some retirement villages are part of a complex which includes an ACRF and some have affiliations with ACRF’s that will accept residents preferentially.  This option can be good for people who are able to care for themselves (even if they might need a little help) or those who are lonely or socially isolated.

Supported Residential Service

This is a residential service that provides support and care for residents.  They are not accredited aged care providers although many have nursing staff and other qualified care staff on site.  They are regulated by State Governments.  Not all States have them.  The cost of care is not subsidised by the government although pensioners may receive rental assistance when staying at an SRS.  This option can be good for people who need some assistance with daily living or short term care.

Each of these options could be appropriate and there are good and not so good providers of each type of accommodation.  It is important to understand what a place is so that you know what a resident can expect both financially and in terms of the care that is provided. The distinction is confusing and it is often very hard to tell which is which.  So how do you tell?  Here are some tips.

  1. If there is a fully functional kitchen in the unit, it is not an ACRF.  It is probably a retirement village;
  2. If the facility is advertised as not requiring an accommodation payment (bond) it is probably an SRS (although be aware that some SRS’s do have a bond and if they do, it is not guaranteed by the Federal Government but a bond in an ACRF is guaranteed by the Federal Government meaning that you are certain to get it back if the ACRF gets into financial difficulty);</li>
  3. Go onto the government website,  www.myagedcare.gov.au and search for the facility under ‘Find a Service’ then ‘Aged Care homes’.  If it is marked ‘X’ in the ’Commonwealth Government subsidised’ column, then it is not an ACRF but an SRS. Not all ACRF’s are listed on the site; or
  4. Probably the best way to find out is to ask the facility what it is.  They will tell you if you ask.  You just have to know what they mean when they give you the answer!

This article was published by Sara Cook and Margaret Harrison, Directors of Signpost Aged Care Services

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