June 29, 2023


Receiving an assessment by an ACAT places you in a position to receive access to a wider range of services and support than what is available under entry level services with the Commonwealth Home Support Program.

If you are receiving services and support under Commonwealth Home Support Program and believe your needs are higher or you require a coordinated approach to service provision, then the ACAT is your next step in the process.

What happens in an ACAT assessment?

The ACAT is the Aged Care Assessment Team, a team of clinicians who assess older people for a range of Commonwealth government subsidised programs to help them remain living at home, or approval respite or entry into aged care accommodation.

In all States and Territories in Australia, these team are known as ACAT teams, except for Victoria where there are known as the Aged Care Assessment Services or ACAS.

Despite the slightly different name, all ACATs assess older people the same way and for the same types of services.

This means that wherever you are located in Australia, the way in which you are assessed to receive in-home support or entry to aged care accommodation will be consistent.

ACATs complete assessments and approvals for Home Care Packages, flexible care options such as the Short-Term Restorative Care program and the Transition Care Program and for respite or entry into an aged care facility.

ACATs also complete support plan reviews for people who have previously been approved for a Home Care Package at a lower level, but who may now need a higher level home care package.

Access to an ACAT assessment is via the My Aged Care gateway.

ACAT teams are located in cities and towns all over Australia and although there may not be ACATs in rural and remote communities, the ACATs will travel to these areas or in some instances have built capacity into rural and remote communities so that assessments are completed in tandem with other clinicians or health workers.

The ACAT comprises clinicians such as nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and social workers.
Though each of these disciplines has their own specialised focus, the assessment each clinician completes is the same, meaning there will not be any difference in having an ACAT nurse assessor instead of an ACAT physiotherapist assessor.

The framework for an ACAT assessment is consistent wherever you are located.

The ACAT will try to assess an older person in their home as this provides the most accurate picture of how an older person is managing their day to day tasks.

What does this assessment involve?

The assessment involves many questions about how the older person manages every aspect of the daily life and includes:

  • how they manage the cleaning of the home, how much help do they need and how often
  • who assists with the washing of larger items like sheets and towels 
  • who mows the lawn, does the pruning and outdoor maintenance tasks
  • reviewing their appetite, are they losing weight, is their diet balanced and nutritious
  • who is completing the grocery shopping
  • who is arranging appointments and assisting with transport
  • are they maintaining social connection
  • is the older person paying their own bills and are capable of handling money
  • if there has been any falls
  • if they've been admitted to hospital recently
  • assessing mobility, need for mobility aids, appropriate footwear to enhance mobility
  • if they would benefit from assistive technology
  • their ability to shower themselves and if the bathroom is well set up with grab rails and a shower chair
  • continence and need for continence aids
  • reviewing memory issues and mood, including sleep patterns
  • reviewing pain and how they manage their pain

ACATs utilise a suite of clinical screening and assessment tools to establish an older person's ability to complete their day to day activities, their cognitive state and their mood.

ACATs will also consider the toll it is taking on the carer to support their loved one. We know that carer stress may lead to carer crisis, which we don't want to happen.

A carer who is at the point of not being able to support a loved one anymore, is a warning sign for the ACAT for a more urgent assessment.

The answers to all these questions completes a picture of a person that reflects their needs and their circumstances and guides the ACAT in considering other options that may be available to the older person such as liaising with the GP to generate a referral to a geriatrician in a memory clinic.

ACAT assessments usually take from one to two hours.

These assessments may be completed over the phone or they may be done in person.

The ACAT will also take into consideration information from family members and sometimes consult the person's GP.

It is possible for you to discuss with the ACAT assessor at another time, if it is difficult for you to speak openly in front of your loved one.

During the ACAT assessment, if you haven't already attended to this, you can ask the ACAT assessor to nominate you or someone else as a representative, to speak for your loved one each time you need to contact My Aged Care.

Having a representative is especially important if your loved one has a cognitive impairment. 

ACAT assessments are thorough, and collateral information will ensure a complete and detailed picture of the older person is captured.

On completion of the ACAT assessment, the ACAT summarises their assessment and usually discusses the assessment with other ACAT team members, resulting in an approval from an ACAT delegate.

The older person will be approved for a home care package at an appropriate level and this approval will also reflect the urgency for that home care package to be assigned, being low, medium or a high priority.

As ACATs are very busy, they're likely to complete all their approvals at once, meaning, if you're approved for Short-Term Restorative Care, you're likely to be approved for a Home Care Package at the same time.

You are also likely to be approved for respite or entry into residential accommodation too, just in case, but these residential approvals don't mean you have to take up that option until you're absolutely ready to move out of your home.

The ACATs are also able to generate referral codes for services and support under the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) which serves to support people until they receive their home care package.

ACATs also complete support plan reviews for people who have previously been assessed but whose care needs may now be more urgent, requiring a higher priority for their home care package or for people who have been receiving a lower level of package and now need a higher level.

If you've been assessed by the ACAT and received your Home Care Package approval as a medium priority, meaning a likely wait of 3-6 months for your package to be assigned, and something changes, perhaps your family carer has to move away, you can contact My Aged Care and ask for the ACAT to review you as a 'priority review'. This is also known as a Support Plan Review.

A Support Plan Review can be arranged by calling My Aged Care, stating your situation very clearly, with as much detail as possible and the My Aged Care call centre staff will forward that referral to the previous ACAT team for follow up.

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