Enabling older people to live independently through ‘active support’ has become a significant aspect of modern aged care frameworks. It not only empowers individuals to lead fulfilling lives, it can help them adapt to life in an aged care facility, particularly those focused on independent living. It also assists families and caregivers in managing the day-to-day circumstances of their loved ones. But what is active support in aged care, and what government assistance is available to those who need it?

What is ‘active support’ in aged care?

Active support in aged care is a person-centred approach that enables aged care professionals to provide a consistent service that helps seniors improve their confidence, increase their independence and achieve the highest possible health and wellbeing outcomes.

Why are active support services important for seniors?

If someone cannot do everyday activities independently, they may need support to live a full and happy life. Active support is designed to ensure that those who want support can fully participate and engage in their lives and receive the right level of assistance they need.

What are some of the benefits of active support in aged care?

Active support can:

  • Help seniors maintain their independence and have control over their lives while they are receiving consistent assistance.
  • Rapidly improve or help to maintain the health and well-being of seniors.
  • Decrease the pressure and stress that seniors feel.
  • Allow seniors to spend quality time with friends and family.
  • Allow seniors to have a new experience and develop or learn new skills.

What is the role of the aged care regulator?

Governments protect the health and safety of the community through regulation. In aged care, regulation aims to:

  • protect older people from harm
  • promote positive health and wellbeing outcomes
  • ensure aged care providers deliver safe and high-quality care to older people.

Regulation for the aged care system in Australia is the responsibility of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC). This is the national regulator of funded aged care services. Subject to being passed in Parliament, a new Aged Care Act is planned to start on 1 July 2024.

Under the new Act, it will be responsible for:

  • protecting and enhancing the safety and wellbeing of people accessing aged care services
  • engaging with people accessing aged care services and their supporters and representatives to
  • develop best-practice models for registered providers and aged care workers
  • registering providers to deliver aged care services
  • monitoring and assessing providers’ compliance with the Aged Care Quality Standards and other obligations
  • administering the Serious Incident Response Scheme
  • resolving complaints about services
  • reporting frequently on complaints received and handled by the Commissioner
  • reducing the use of restrictive practices.

What is ‘duty of care’ in aged care?

Part of the ACQSC’s role is to ensure that aged care providers follow Duty of Care standards. Duty of care in an aged care setting means ensuring their actions or inactions do not result in harm or injury to the person who is receiving care. It means “taking reasonable measures to protect, or at least not cause foreseeable harm, to another person or their property”. It also means providing “a high standard of care and services that meet the person’s assessed needs and listening to and facilitating consumer dignity and choice.”

What is ‘dignity of risk’ in aged care?

Joseph E Ibrahim, Head of Health Law and the Ageing Research Unit at Monash University, summarises the concept or rather the necessity of ‘dignity of risk’ as:
“Dignity of risk refers to the concept of affording a person the right (or dignity) to take reasonable risks, and that the impeding of this right can suffocate personal growth, self-esteem and the overall quality of life” (Ibrahim & Davis 2013).

A carer in the aged care sector must take steps to evaluate the dignity of risk. Is the individual present of mind? Do they have access to all information required to make informed decisions about the risk? Could it impact others? Should a GP or family member be consulted on the decision?

What is ‘mandatory reporting’ in aged care?

The ACQSC also requires mandatory reporting. Under Australia’s Aged Care Act 1997, aged care providers must report serious incidents if they are known or suspected to have occurred. These incidents may relate to abuse, neglect or exploitation of a person receiving care, so any such incidents must be reported quickly. Mandatory reporting helps ensure reportable incidents are documented, addressed and prevented from happening again.

In October 2018, The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was established. The Royal Commission analysed the quality of aged care services in Australia, whether those services met the community’s needs, and how they could be improved in the future.

This led to the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) being implemented, which covered a more extensive range of serious incidents previously reportable in residential aged care that possibly weren’t. As of December 2022, SIRS has also extended to home care and flexible care delivered in a home or community setting.

What are the Aged Care Quality Standards?

To help enhance the quality of aged care in Australia, the Australian Government has developed eight Aged Care Quality Standards. These standards apply to all government-funded aged care providers, with each provider’s performance assessed and monitored against the standards by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. Find out more in our handy guide.

How do I apply for active support in aged care?

In aged care settings, active support manifests through a range of services and interventions designed to promote independence and well-being among seniors. This can include a personalised care plan tailored to meet an individual’s unique needs and preferences, referred to as a home care package.

What is included in a home care package in Australia?

Launched by the Australian Government in July 2013, My Aged Care provides information on finding and accessing suitable government-funded aged care services.

Their home care packages (HCP) are one way that older Australians can access affordable care services and help at home. They are designed for those with more complex care needs beyond what the Commonwealth Home Support Programme can provide.

Home care packages can be an option if your elderly loved one needs a coordinated approach to delivering help at home or if the care they need is more complex or intensive.

What home care package services are available?

Depending on the level of home care package that is approved for your loved one, they can receive assistance with a range of different services, including:

  • Bathing, hygiene, and grooming – to help them maintain their personal hygiene and grooming standards.
  • Nursing – to help them treat and monitor medical conditions at home.
  • Podiatry, physiotherapy, and other therapies – to help them maintain movement and mobility.
  • Meals and food preparation – to help ensure they continue to eat well.
  • Help with impairments or continence – to help manage particular conditions and maximise their independence at home.
  • Cleaning, laundry, and other chores – to help them keep their home clean and liveable.
  • Home or garden maintenance – to help keep their home and garden in a safe condition.
  • Changes to their home – to help increase or maintain their ability to move around their home safely and independently.
  • Aids to stay independent – to help them with mobility, communication, reading and personal care limitations.
  • Transport – to get them out and about to appointments and community activities.
  • Social outings, groups and visitors – to help them remain social and interact with the community.

Who is eligible for a home care package in Australia?

Eligibility is based on an individual’s care needs as determined through an assessment from an eligible provider, but senior applicants must also be older people who need coordinated services to help them stay at home. An individual’s financial situation won’t affect eligibility. However, an income assessment may need to be carried out through Services Australia to determine how much may need to be contributed.

How do individuals get assessed for these services?

Individuals must meet certain requirements to be eligible for an aged care assessment. The application is made via My Aged Care’s eligibility checker. A few simple questions will need to be answered, and if your elderly loved one meets the requirements, they can apply for an assessment straight away. If the application is successful, they will be referred for an assessment. An assessor will arrange to meet them in person, usually where they reside.

Who provides these services?

A variety of organisations across Australia provide services, and your loved one can choose the service provider that is right for them. The government then pays the provider a subsidy to arrange a package of care services to meet your loved one’s needs.

Is a home care package the same for everyone?

No. Because everyone’s care needs are different, there are four levels of home care packages with varying amounts of funding. They range from basic support to support for those with high care needs. Individuals work with their chosen supplier to identify their care needs and decide how best to spend their package funding. The service provider will then coordinate and manage services on their behalf.

Are there any fees involved?

Your elderly loved one is expected to contribute to the cost of their care if they can afford it. That contribution could be:

  • A basic daily fee
  • An income-tested care fee
  • Additional fees

You can find out more here.

How long will it take to get a home care package?

If your elderly loved one is eligible, the time it takes for a home care package to come into play depends on the package level.