Understanding Aged Care Assessments

20 May 2014 | Posted In: #121 Winter 2014, Aged Services – My Aged care, Human Service Delivery, | Author: Enis Jusufspahic

ACAT Hands

An Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) assesses a person’s ability to live independently in the community and makes recommendations but as Enis Jusufspahic points out it cannot force you out of your home into care.

The purpose of the ACAT assessment is to provide an informed opinion of the care needs of a person aged 65 years of age and older. The ACAT is able to assess a younger person with disability if they have an age related condition and all other local support services have been exhausted.[i] The purpose of the assessment is to give a person options about how to best address their care needs through assistance at home to remain living independently or residential aged care.

The Australian Government provides funds to the State and Territory Governments, specifically to operate and manage the Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACAT).[ii] Each area has its own local team – there are 58 across NSW.[iii] You can find phone numbers for your local ACAT team on the www.myagedcare.gov.au website or by calling My Aged Care on 1800 200 422.

The Assessment process

In order to access aged care packages and residential care, the Commonwealth requires that the person undergos an ACAT assessment of their ability to live independently in the community. The ACAT asks the person a series of standardised questions which look at the individual’s housing situation; whether they are supported by friends and family, their mobility and health as well as the person’s ability to carry out activities of daily living such as housework, shopping and showering. You have a right to have a person present during your assessment to assist you with answering questions.

ACAT’s powers

Following the assessment process the ACAT convenes a panel of aged care experts who make a recommendation about the person’s care needs. It is purely a recommendation and it does not carry any legal weight. You have a right to ask for another assessment. The ACAT does not have power to compel a person to take up an aged care package or to enter residential aged care. The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) has powers to appoint a substitute decision maker for a person in case of incapacity to make decisions for themselves. In this case the substitute decision maker may or may not decide to agree with the ACAT recommendation having taken into account what is in the best interest of the person.

Human rights and older people

There are certain human rights and freedoms that are particularly relevant to older people, including rights to:

  • an adequate standard of living including access to adequate food, clothing and housing
  • the highest possible standard of physical and mental health
  • work and fair working conditions
  • be safe and free from violence
  • be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
  • privacy
  • family life.[iv]

Age discrimination

Age discrimination is against the law in NSW “when you rent accommodation such as houses, units, hotel or motel rooms and commercial premises”.[v] The law makes it clear that an older person has the right to rent accommodation no matter their age and that the landlord can’t refuse accommodation just because they believe that the person is too old to look after the property.[vi]

If you are being pressured into accepting care against your will you can make a complaint to the Anti-discrimination Board of NSW by calling (02) 9268 5544.

You can also make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission under the Age Discrimination Act 2004 if you feel you have been discriminated against because of your age when accessing accommodation, employment, education, goods and services or in the administration of Commonwealth government laws and programs[vii] by calling 1300 656 419.

Enis Jusufspahic is the Home and Community Care (HACC) Development Officer (Eastern Sydney)

Millers Point Concerns

With the large number of long term aged residents in Millers Point, the Government decision to sell the public housing properties may put residents under pressure for ACAT assessments to push them into care rather than being rehoused in public housing in the local area. The decision to sell people’s homes and remove the neighbours they rely upon, changes their housing situation and impacts on their support networks with friends, neighbours and familiar services. It hence changes the way an assessment may be made. Aged tenants and community and legal services need to be aware of the ACAT processes if they are to prevent people being prematurely pushed into care by the decision to sell.

The Tenants Union has also produced material on Aged Care Assessments for use by both lawyers providing advice to tenants and public tenants in Millers Point. For more information on Millers Point see Millers Point & The Rocks – Some places are too upmarket for public housing and Millers Point & The Rocks – A Community fights back

[i]National Guiding Principles for the Referral and Assessment of Younger People with Disability, Department of Health, 21 October 2008, https://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ageing-acat-guidelines-disability.htm

[ii]How Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACATs) can help you, Department of Health & Ageing, September 2012, http://www.islhd.health.nsw.gov.au/Services/AgedCare_AssessmentTeams/Info-Sheet-01-SEPT12.pdf

[iii] New South Wales ACAT contacts, DPS Guide to Aged Care , http://www.agedcareguide.com.au/acats.asp?stateid=2

[iv]Human rights and older people, Australian Human Rights Commission http://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/letstalkaboutrights/downloads/HRA_older.pdf

[v] Age discrimination: When does the Law apply?, Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW, http://www.antidiscrimination.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/adb/adb1_antidiscriminationlaw/adb1_types/adb1_age.html?s=1001

[vi]Age discrimination:What are my rental accommodation rights?, Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW, http://www.antidiscrimination.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/adb/adb1_antidiscriminationlaw/adb1_types/adb1_age.html?s=1001

[vii] [vii] Human rights and older people, Australian Human Rights Commission http://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/letstalkaboutrights/downloads/HRA_older.pdf