Moving into residential aged care

Last updated: 
3 July 2020

What is residential aged care

  • When you are no longer able to live comfortably and safely in your own home, you may move into a residential aged care facility (RACF) where you have more support available.
  • The Australian government may help pay for your accommodation in a RACF, depending on your income and assets.

Working out your needs and your RACF costs

We strongly suggest that you seek independent financial advice before you begin the process of going into aged care. Doing so could provide you with significant savings on your aged care fees. 

If you cannot find independent financial advice, a Financial Information Service (FIS) officer from the Services Australia may be able to help you.

Assessing your care needs

To work out what kind of care you'll need, you should contact the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) on 1800 200 422 for an assessment, or Aged Care Assessment Services (ACAS) on 1800 200 422 in Victoria.

You can also apply for an assessment online or on behalf of someone else by using the Apply for an Assessment online form as an alternative to calling the My Aged Care contact centre.

Assessing the fees you pay

Before you enter a RACF, you'll need to have your income and assets assessed. These assessments will help DHS figure out how much you can contribute to your care.

Your income will be assessed by us or by DHS, depending on what payments you receive. You should contact us for your assessment if you are receiving:

You should also come to us if you are an Australian ex-prisoner of war or Victoria Cross recipient, because your basic daily fee and income-tested care fee will be waived.

In all other cases you should contact My Aged Care for your assessment.

How you have your income assessed by us

If you are a homeowner you can:

  • complete and send us form SA457 if you haven't updated your income and asset details with us in the last 2 years
  • contact us to update your income and asset details, then complete and send us form SA485; or
  • complete and send us form SA485 if your details are up to date

If you are a non-homeowner and your income and asset details are up to date, you can contact us and ask for an automatic assessment.

This means we can perform your means test assessment based on information you have already provided, and you do not need to complete a form.

If you haven’t provided us with updated income and asset details in the last 2 years, you will need to do so before we can proceed with your assessment. You can do this when you contact us.

Alternatively, you can choose to submit form SA486 to us by mail. You can use this form whether you are a homeowner or not.

What might affect the fees you pay

Some things that may count as income and assets include:

  • lump sum accommodation payments to your RACF
  • the capped value of your home if you haven't sold it and aren't renting it out
  • the full value of your home if you have sold it; and
  • income from renting out your home if you moved into RACF after 1 July 2014 and paid all your accommodation costs as a lump sum

We won’t count income from renting out your home if you moved into RACF after 1 January 2017 or moved in during 2016, and you are:

  • paying a daily accommodation payment 
  • paying a daily accommodation contribution 
  • paying an accommodation charge; or 
  • paying all, or part, of an accommodation bond by periodic payments

What fees to expect

Some costs you might be asked to pay for your aged care include:

  • a basic daily care fee which all residents pay
  • a means tested fee if you have sufficient income and assets
  • an accommodation payment which depends on your income and assets at the time of entry; and
  • an extra service fee if you opt for extra services

Some resources that may help you work out your aged care costs include:

You may also want to seek independent financial advice.

There are two caps that apply to your means tested RACF fees:

  • an annual cap of $27,754.52; and
  • a lifetime cap of $66,610.90

These caps do not apply if you entered care before 1 July 2014, and remain in care.

Your DVA cards and benefits in a RACF

Changes in your finances when you move into a RACF might have some effect on your income support payments.

If you have a Gold Card or a White Card, you may continue to get all the same benefits unless you need a greater level of care (at least 1 'high' score and 2 'medium' scores on the Aged Care Funding Index). If you need a greater level of care, your RACF will usually provide you with services and aids or items instead of us. 

You may still be able to have clinically required transport arranged and paid for by us. Your RACF may be able to book this for you.

Choosing your new home and moving in

When you're searching for the right RACF for you, you may want to consider using the My Aged Care Find a Service tool. You may also have a social worker to help you look for one if you are in hospital waiting for a vacancy.

You won't be able to live in a RACF temporarily to 'test it out', but you can most certainly visit facilities to see which one you like best. The Aged Care Placement Checklist from Aged Care Connect can help you figure out if a RACF is right for you.

Once you've been assessed and you've chosen your home, you may be put on a waiting list if there's no vacancies. You should contact your chosen RACF occasionally to remind them you’re interested.

When a vacancy opens up, you'll be informed either by the RACF or your social worker. You may need to decide quickly if you want to move in.

Things you should know

  • Ex-service organisations can come visit you in your RACF if you arrange it with them.
  • If we don't have your current income details, you may need to pay the maximum fees.
  • If you leave care for more than 28 days without approved leave and then re-enter care, you will be assessed under the current rules.
  • If you believe you will face financial hardship in paying your aged care costs, you can ask for financial hardship assistance from DHS.
  • Aged care homes cannot ask you to pay any fees or deposits before you have moved in. If you've been asked to do so, please call the Aged Care Complaints Scheme on 1800 550 552.
  • If you have a complaint about the quality of your care, you can contact the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.
  • You could save a significant amount on your aged care fees by getting independent financial advice before you begin the process. A Financial Information Service (FIS) officer from DHS may also be able to help you