May 29, 2020


Preparation is key to maximising your assessment outcome

If you had an impending exam or were applying for a sought-after job, would you leave it to chance? Or would you prepare?

Being prepared for your Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) assessment will influence the quality of information supplied to the ACAT assessor and will enhance the accuracy of your assessment outcome.

Being aware of what questions an ACAT assessor will ask you will give you some time to really think honestly about the support you are requiring. This support takes into consideration all the assistance your family, neighbours or friends offer.

Does your family cook meals for you, because you don't feel like cooking anymore?
Does your family transport you to appointments or take you shopping once a week for groceries?
Does your family pay your bills for you?
Do you become confused about appointments and phone your family to remind you when you need to see your GP?
Do you rely on your family to change light bulbs, do your laundry for you or clean your house?

Does your neighbour mow your yard for you? Or take your dog for a walk for you?

This is the kind of information that you need to be prepared to disclose during your ACAT assessment.
Why? Because it demonstrates your need for assistance.
If you don't disclose this kind of information during your ACAT assessment, it is possible your needs won't be identified and any approvals stemming from the assessment will fail to provide you with the level of care you really need.

The Assessors will ask you questions

The ACAT (or ACAS in Victoria) assessor will ask you questions about your functional ability, that is what you can do and what you need assistance with for you day to day living activities, described generally above.

The ACAT assessor will also ask you about mobility and falls.
Continence will also be discussed...a subject some people are uncomfortable talking about but important to disclose during the ACAT assessment.
The ACAT assessor will also ask about memory impairment and any behaviour that may be out of character for the older person (cognition) and there should be a discussion about mood, particularly if the older person has lost interest in things they used to like to do or has a declining appetite, doesn't want to get out of bed during the day and may be teary.
Impaired cognition and low mood can have an overlapping presentation and it is important to attempt to distinguish between the two.

Some ACAT assessments are conducted over the phone, which makes it more important for you to provide reliable and honest information. Ideally an ACAT assessment would occur face to face as the information from an in-home assessment adds to the picture of how an older person is managing...or not.

Imagine that during a phone assessment the older person told the ACAT assessor they cooked their own meals, cleaned their own home and were managing ok, but during a face to face assessment the ACAT assessor would notice if the dishes were piling up on the kitchen sink, if the older person was dishevelled, if there was food in the fridge that was expired or if there was an odour of urine in the house.

These are key indicators that an older person is not managing as well as they might think they are.

It is important that you as an adult child of your ageing parent are aware that an ACAT assessment is scheduled and seek the opportunity to either be present during the assessment or speak with the ACAT assessor before or after the assessment has occurred.
Your collateral information will form part of the picture the ACAT assessor will put together when determining the approvals.

And if you are a family member caring for your ageing loved one, please be honest in disclosing how much support you provide and how stressful it is.
Significantly supporting your ageing loved one can lead to carer stress or, worse, carer crisis.
And this is a situation you don't want to find yourself in.
You may feel ashamed to admit that it is difficult caring for your ageing loved one, but remaining stoic and portraying that things are ok will not do you any favours with the assessment outcome.

For example, I have seen so many clients who are dependent on their adult children to assist them with most aspects of their daily lives. These family members are so exhausted trying to meet the demands of their own careers, raise their own families and then attend to their ageing loved ones that they break down and cry and say they can barely cope.

Their ageing loved one has come to expect this kind of support and is unaware the toll it is taking on their adult children. The adult children swing between stoicism and trying to do 'what is right' for their ageing loved one, and distress that they can't sustain this level of support.

I've supported adult children of ageing Australians in this position and have urged them to tell the ACAT assessor what is really going on when the assessment occurs...and they agree at the time...but often they put on a brave face and portray to the ACAT assessor that things are ok.

So the ACAT assessor might approve for a home care package 1 or 2 when it should be a 3 or 4.

Then the older person goes on to the national queue with the other 100 000 plus older Australians and has to wait for their home care package to be assigned.

In the meantime, the exhausted son or daughter hits a carer crisis and starts to consider putting their ageing loved one into an aged care facility.

Does this really happen? Yes often.

Our Advice to you

My strong advice to you as ageing Australians or as adult children of ageing Australians is to discuss everything that you need support with before the ACAT assessment. Discuss the cleaning of the home, cooking and dietary intake, personal care (has the older person stopped showering?) and are they wearing clean clothes or dressing in the same clothes day after day without washing them, are there issues of incontinence, are there issues with forgetting to take medications or doubling up on medications?

And is your ageing loved one phoning your often for reminders for appointments or reassurance?

Be prepared. Write everything down and raise these concerns with the ACAT assessor. Don't leave the assessment outcome to chance. Start discussing an upcoming ACAT assessment with your ageing loved one now and support each other to ensure the best outcome from the assessment process, for all of you.

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