May 6, 2022


Know what to expect and be prepared

So, your older loved one would like to remain living at home and has been referred for an assessment by the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). To get to this point they (or you) would have made a referral through My Aged Care, likely because their situation is changing and you and/or your loved one are now feeling they need some extra assistance to remain living safely at home.

They may or may not have been receiving some assistance at home already but by having an assessment by the ACAT they will gain eligibility for the Commonwealth funded services that are provided at a higher or more coordinated level, such as Home Care Packages and Restorative programmes such as the Short Term Restorative Care program. The assessor will help to identify which program/s will be most beneficial to help the older person remain living at home as independently and safely as possible.

What and who are ACAT assessors?

The ACAT assessor is a health professional; a nurse, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, or social worker. ACAT assessors prefer to conduct the assessment in the person’s home. Assessing someone in their home helps the assessor to fully understand each individual situation because they can see the older person in their home environment. What the experienced assessor sees can provide as much information as asking questions directly.

However, Covid-19 has impacted on the ability of ACATs to go to a person’s home and ACAT assessments are increasingly conducted over the phone. This is not ideal, but it becomes so much more important to articulate your situation accurately.

What is their role and can I have a support person with me?

When the assessment takes place, you, as the one being assessed, can have a support person (or people) present. It helps if that person is someone who knows you and your daily activities very well and someone you feel comfortable to have supporting you and being involved in your care. The assessor will listen to your support person and gain information from them as well.

The assessor is there to support you. Remember the assessor is a health professional who has experience in aged care assessments. They are a guest in your home and are not there to judge or intimidate you. And they most certainly are not there to recommend you move to an aged care facility if this is not what you want.

The assessor is there to provide you with the most appropriate, helpful information, and to support you to remain living at home; therefore, it is important that they totally understand your individual situation. This is not an assessment that you either pass or fail, so be honest about your situation. It benefits you to do so. If you try to be stoic or give the impression of being more independent than you are, you may not get the level of support you need.

To fully understand your situation the assessor will ask a lot of questions. The assessment can take up to two hours to complete if the assessment is completed at your home. Remember, the assessor has never met you before and will need to ask these questions in order to understand what support will be of most benefit to you. The assessor needs to understand how you manage your day to day and personal activities to help determine the best care options for you or your loved one.

You will be asked for information about your social connections and supports, including who you live with, if there is anyone who helps you now, if you have a carer and how the carer is managing and coping with assisting you.

The assessor will also need to know if you are currently receiving any formal help at home and who provides those services. The fact that you might already be receiving help does not disqualify you from being eligible for a package of support.

It is important for the assessor to understand your health conditions, know which health professionals you see and discuss any worries you may have regarding your health. The assessor will also ask you about what medications you take as well.

Experiencing pain and not sleeping can also play a huge part in how you manage at home.

Falls are a leading cause of hospitalisation and loss of independence for an older person. The assessor will ask if you have had any slips, trips, near misses or falls.

They will walk around your home with you including seeing how you enter and exit your home; investigate how you manage your shower and other personal cares such as getting on and off the toilet and in and out of bed and chairs.

Your safety is important, and the assessor can identify if a referral to a physiotherapist or occupational therapist may be a helpful option. Simple interventions such as a railing or a piece of equipment such a raised the toilet seat can make life much easier and safer, all helping you to remain living at home.

How you manage daily activities such as dressing, cooking, cleaning, shopping, transport, banking, gardening, and appointments will all be discussed. The assessor will ask you about your appetite, if you have any problems eating and if there has been any noticeable change in your weight recently.

How you have been feeling emotionally is also important to the assessor. If you have been experiencing tough times you may be feeling a little down and flat.

The assessor will also ask you about your memory. These questions are asked of everyone and simply form part of the assessment. The assessor may even do a standard memory test. Do not worry if this happens. It is all aimed at getting the best outcomes and recommending programs of support that will provide the most benefit.

This list of questions is by no means exhaustive or in any order. Most of the information is gained through general conversation. At the end of the assessment the assessor will check if there is anything else that you have not had the opportunity to discuss. Together, you will identify concerns, and the assessor will recommend different options that may be available to help you remain living at home.

The assessor is able to ascertain your eligibility for different community services. This includes home care packages and restorative care programs.

What happens next?

After your assessment, your assessor will request the ACAT delegate, who is another experienced assessor from the ACAT, review your assessment to ensure that all necessary information has been collected and then provide the final eligibility decision. You will receive your final eligibility for services and recommendations in written form approximately two weeks after the assessment, though sometimes it can take a bit longer.

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