Planning your
aged care needs

Planning ahead can help demystify aged care and reduce stress levels. With awareness and pre-planning, you can maintain control and choice, have access to the financial resources to pay for care and minimise the stress on you and your family. This article discusses the steps you should consider when it’s time for you to start thinking about residential aged care.

Step 1 - Plan ahead

We’re often reluctant to think about a move into care, meaning we fail to plan and ignore the warning signs until a crisis emerges. At this point, the time you have to evaluate options is limited and decisions can be rushed. Also, family members may disagree about what they think the best option for you is, and conflicts arise.


Start with a family meeting to make shared decisions. Use this meeting to:

  • discuss options and preferences
  • explore each person’s concerns
  • decide who needs to be involved in any planning.

Honest and open discussion is the first step to an effective decision-making process. Ask your financial planner to facilitate your family meeting. They can provide advice as well as offer an impartial and objective view.

Step 2 - Assessing options

Aged care assistance can be accessed in your home or in a residential setting. To help you decide which option is best, consider arranging a free assessment by ACAT (Aged Care Assessment Team) or ACAS (Aged Care Assessment Services). You will need to have ACAT/ACAS approval before you can access a government subsidised home care package or residential care.


You can book an appointment directly with ACAT or ACAS on 1800 200 422. Further information is available at

Step 3 - Searching for services

If residential care is required, think about what’s most important in deciding where to live. Make a list. This should include the location(s), amenities and your health care needs. This will help you develop a shortlist of potential services you might like to contact or visit. But first, check what fees will be required for accommodation and ongoing services to ensure it’s affordable.

Once you’ve worked out your top preferences, you can fill in an application form to put your name on the waiting list. Doing this for more than one service will increase your chances of finding a place that’s available.


You can search for services by:

  • visiting and search for a list of aged care facilities in your preferred location
  • looking for ‘aged care placement services’ on the web, for advice and help in choosing a service and negotiating a place.

If you’d like to fill in an application form to apply for a place, you can use a generic form which is available from


Step 4 - Understanding fee structure

Most people are often surprised by the level and range of fees. How much you have to pay may depend on:

  • the service you choose
  • your assessable assets
  • your assessable income.

Your financial planner can help you to understand the fees, as the total amount payable can be difficult to calculate without good advice.


What you’ll pay for residential care is divided into contributions towards accommodation, care and additional services.

Paying for accommodation – we all need to either find a lump sum of money to buy a home or generate income to rent a home. Residential care is firstly accommodation that needs to be “purchased” (refundable accommodation deposit or RAD) or “rented” (daily accommodation payment or DAP).

Paying for basic living expenses – food, electricity, cleaning, laundry services and nursing assistance is subsidised by the government. Residents are asked to contribute to the cost through a basic daily care fee plus a means-tested fee for those who have a higher capacity to pay.

Luxuries and lifestyle – additional items can be purchased on a user pays basis or in bundled packages as additional service fees.

Step 5 - Structuring finances

Accommodation costs are set by market forces with pricing published on the MyAgedCare website. If assets and income can be reduced to low enough levels (to become a low-means client) before the move, the government may subsidise accommodation and regulate how much the resident pays.

In this way, the accommodation cost may be cheaper, but it’s not always better. Choice and control may be lost. Potential residents may be faced with accepting a place in whichever service has a low-means place available, and this could even be a shared room.


A homeowner will generally not qualify as low-means unless their spouse (or other protected person) will continue to live in that home.

If potential residents wish to aim for entry under the low-means rules, there are not many pre-planning strategies to reduce assets. One option may be to enter into a granny flat arrangement to transfer ownership of the home to a child in exchange for a life interest to live in the home. However, some caution should be given to this option and you may wish to seek estate planning, legal, taxation and/or financial advice before proceeding.

If this transaction occurs within five years before a move into residential care it could be captured under gifting and deprivation rules (depending on circumstances). Instead of being a solution it could create more problems. Other legal issues also need to be considered to minimise the family issues that could arise.


Your financial planner can review your full financial situation and provide advice on how to:

  • make appropriate decisions
  • structure assets to pay for accommodation and create sufficient cashflow
  • minimise fees or maximise Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs benefits.

Steps 6 - Estate planning

Anytime your circumstances change it’s important to consider the impact this has on your estate plans. This includes when you move into aged care.

You should consider speaking to your solicitor about the ability to review and redraft your Will to reflect your wishes.

As dementia is a leading factor behind the need for care services, when the time comes many people need to consider delegating financial decisions to someone else. This is easier if an enduring power of attorney (and guardianship) is in place. So, it’s important to have the appropriate powers in place before a person has lost legal capacity as once capacity has been lost, it will be too late to set up the powers and involvement by the Guardianship Tribunal will be needed.

There are a lot of considerations when it comes to aged care, so if you’d like some advice to help navigate through them, EISS Super have specialist aged care planners who can offer personal advice tailored to you or your loved one’s situation. You can also find more information on our online portal

To arrange an aged care advice appointment please call us on (02) 9046 1920

© Aged Care Steps Pty Limited, 2020. Used with permission.