Choosing a nursing home guide

Plan ahead for when you can no longer look after yourself.
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  • Updated:22 Aug 2006

02.Aged care facilities and standards

Types of care

  • A retirement village or independent living unit caters for those who can still live fairly independently. Various support services — like laundry, cleaning or meals — are available at a cost.
  • A number of services can be provided in your home, ranging from basic help with shopping or cooking right down to tailor-made extended care.
  • Residential aged care facilities provide low-level care (assistance with everyday tasks and occasional nursing care) and/or high-level care (for people who require continuous nursing care) — they used to be called nursing homes or hostels. Many homes provide both levels of care, which means you can stay in the same home if your care needs change over time — you can ‘age in place’.
  • Residential aged care is provided on a permanent basis or short-term (respite, to give carers a break) and includes all essential services (like accommodation, meals and assistance from staff).
  • Some homes provide ‘extra services’: a higher standard of accommodation or services (such as a bigger room, or wine with dinner). The quality of nursing care must be the same for all residents.

ACAT assessment

To qualify for government-subsidised residential aged care, you’ll need to be assessed by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT, or Aged Care Assessment Service, ACAS, in Victoria) — health professionals who’ll help you work out what kind of care will suit you best when you’re no longer able to manage at home without help. An ACAT assessment is funded by the government; it’s valid for 12 months.

Accreditation and standards

Aged care homes must be accredited by the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency (ACSAA) to receive Federal Government subsidies. Homes that fail to meet standards are put on a ‘timetable for improvement’, their progress is monitored and, if warranted, their accreditation shortened or revoked. The latest accreditation reports are published on the ACSAA website (, or phone the agency in your state or territory for a copy).

The Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing (DHA) is ultimately responsible for imposing sanctions if the non-compliance is considered serious, has occurred before or threatens the health, welfare or interests of residents. Information about sanctions imposed on homes (current and archived sanctions) is published on the DHA website (go to and type sanctions in the search box).

The accreditation and monitoring arrangements in place should ensure our elderly receive quality aged care. However, earlier in 2006 several incidents of sexual abuse in accredited nursing homes came to light that seriously undermined confidence in the system and challenged its effectiveness. Elder abuse includes things such as verbal abuse, withholding of pain relief, neglect, rough handling, being left unattended and helpless — the list goes on.

Preventing elder abuse

Following the widely reported cases of elder abuse cases earlier in 2006, the Federal Government has repeatedly pledged its commitment to introduce legislation aimed at preventing abuse in aged care facilities. The measures introduced so far include:

  • More frequent unannounced inspections (spot checks with less than 30 minutes’ notice) to ensure providers comply with care and security standards.
  • Police background checks for all aged care workers, including volunteer visitors.
  • A regime of compulsory reporting of abuse — including sanctions for non-compliance and legislative protection for whistleblowers.
  • Reform of the Complaints Resolution Scheme to give it more investigative power.
  • Increased funding for staff training and aged care nursing scholarships.

Useful resources

  • Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing DHA
    Phone: 1800 500 853
  • Commonwealth Carelink Centre
    Phone: 1800 052 222
  • The Aged Care Crisis Team
    PO Box 1082
    Ivanhoe 3079
  • Your doctor, hospital or health or community centre
    A local telephone directory (with an Aged page) may also be of help.
  • Your financial adviser, legal representative or a Centrelink Financial Information Officer
    Phone: 132 300

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