Home care costs- Closely cropped photo of stack of hard cover books

What are the costs of in-home care?

Your mind is made up: you want to keep living at home. It’s a choice that lots of older Australians are making, and the government is backing them up, with a range of subsidies for home care services (although of course, the bureaucratic manoeuvres can be burdensome and the wait can be long).
Here’s the lowdown on exactly what you can expect to pay for each level of home care, whether you’re taking the government up on their subsidies or taking the private option.

Short-term or basic support

If you need a little bit of help for short while – if you’re recovering from an illness for example, or when your normal carer is on away on holidays – the Commonwealth Home Support Program provides a government subsidy so you can access a variety of services to keep things ticking over. The list of services you can access isn’t exhaustive, but includes the things you’re most likely to need a helping hand with – transport, preparing meals, nurse visits and allied health services.
To get your hands on the subsidy, you’ll need to organise an assessment by the Regional Assessment Service (RAS); they’ll help you work out which services you need and how much they cost. Fees are set by the government, and the subsidy means that the amount you pay is determined by your income – you’ll only pay what you can afford to.

Long-term subsidised support

The next step up, if you need ongoing care to stay at home, is to apply for a Home Care Package, which will get you access to a wider range of services and more government help to pay for them. You’ll also have a case manager to advise you on the services you choose, and organise and administer payment for them.
The government subsidy (up to around $50,000 per year for the highest level of care) means the amount you pay is relatively low – the basic daily fee is 17.5% of the age pension for a single person – in 2018, that’s about $10 per day, or $144 per fortnight (rates are adjusted in March and September each year in line with pension increases). If you’re a full pensioner, that’s all you’ll pay.
To access a Home Care Package you need to go through an assets assessment, and if you earn income above the pension, you’ll pay an income- tested fee towards the cost of your services. There are caps on the amount you can be asked to pay each year, up to around $10,000 as of 2018, and a lifetime cap of $63,000 (see the government’s current fees and thresholds).
If this seems complicated, help is at hand: start by using an online calculator to estimate the fees you may be asked to pay.

Private services

If you have the funds, there are plenty of private services out there to help you stay living at home. The benefits are that you don’t need an assessment, and you can access these services straight away, rather than wait for the heavy wheels of bureaucracy to turn (the wait time for a Home Care Package to come through can be over 12 months).
But, of course, you’ll pay. As a ball-park guide, private carers cost from around $50 to $80 an hour for things like cooking, cleaning and personal care. For nursing, you’ll pay anywhere from around $60 to $160 an hour for home care, depending on whether the nurse is an enrolled or registered nurse. Both carers and nurses charge at the top end of this scale for working weekends.
Full-time live-in care costs are quoted at anything from $4000 to $7000 a week, and specialised care can top out way above that. Charges, as well as the expertise of the staff and quality of care, vary widely across service providers, so be sure to do your research and check credentials. Ask around your family and friends – word of mouth is always the best recommendation.
Even if it’s not a long-term option for you, you might decide to use private care to get you over a little hump, or while you’re waiting for your government subsidy to come through. Remember, even if you decide to source your care privately, you’re still entitled to a Home Care Package – they’re available to all Australians, regardless of income level.