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What is an ACAT assessment and how do you interpret yours?

If someone you care for is considering any Aged Care services, you may have heard of an ACAT (Aged Care Assessment Team) assessment. You’ll need an ACAT assessment if you’d like to apply for any government-subsidised services, including moving into any Aged Care Residences (otherwise known as aged care homes).  

The ACAT assessment is designed to determine your loved one’s care needs and eligibility for government-funded Aged Care services, which can help with Aged Care costs. 

If the concept of an ACAT assessment is new to you, you may be wondering how to prepare for it, what to expect during an assessment, and what happens afterwards. This handy guide will give you the information you need to navigate the process with confidence.

What is an ACAT assessment?

“An ACAT assessment is a requirement for anyone wanting access to government-funded Aged Care services in Australia, including our Aged Care Residences,” says Tricare Client Services Manager Aleisha Becker. 

These assessments are conducted by an Aged Care Assessment Team (known in Victoria as the Aged Care Assessment Service, or ACAS), and ACAT assessors are usually professionals with medical backgrounds, such as doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, and social workers. 

“The assessor will meet with your loved one to evaluate their care needs and recommend suitable care options,” says Aleisha. “And that assessment will determine whether your loved one is eligible for placement in one of our Residences.”

Arranging an ACAT assessment

You can arrange an ACAT assessment through your doctor or social worker, or you can arrange it online with My Aged Care. My Aged CAre is the government organisation that coordinates ACAT assessments. 

If you’d like help organising an ACAT assessment, one of our Client Services Specialists at TriCare will be happy to help – just call 1300 TRICARE (874 2273). 

The wait for an assessment can be lengthy – often four months or longer – so if you’re thinking about an ACAT assessment, it can be helpful to get the process moving as early as possible. If your need for an Aged Care placement is urgent, however, you can ask to be seen as a priority. 

Preparing for an ACAT assessment

“It’s important to prepare for your ACAT assessment,” says Aleisha. 

“You’ll need to gather any relevant documentation you have, such as a Medicare card, photo identification, referral from a doctor if you have one, and any information about existing support services your loved one is receiving,” she says. 

“It can also be helpful to have the contact details of any healthcare professionals your loved one is seeing, just in case the assessors want to contact them for further information.”

Having a support person during the assessment

The ACAT assessment will take place in your loved one’s home, or in hospital. During the ACAT assessment, you might want to act as a support person (or arrange someone else to do so) to provide comfort and assistance, and Aleisha says this is allowed. 

“ACAT assessors encourage people they are assessing to bring along a carer, family member, or trusted friend,” she says. “You can also request additional assistance, such as a translator or Auslan interpreter, if needed. And if nobody is available to provide support, you can also contact the Older Persons Advocacy Network, a free and confidential service that provides advocacy and support to older Australians, so there is always help at hand.”

What to expect during the ACAT assessment

During the ACAT assessment, the assessor will ask detailed questions that will give them an idea of your loved one’s needs in various areas of their life, including: 

  1. introductions
  2. permission requests
  3. completion of an Application for Care Form (for some services)
  4. discussions about daily life and any requirements
  5. consideration of health conditions
  6. goal-setting 
  7. the development of a personalised support plan. 

Aleisha says there’s no need to worry about getting your answers ‘right’. 

“The best thing is to be open and honest,” she says. “The assessor is there to help, and to understand what life is like now for your loved one, and what sort of support they may need.” 

Questions to ask during an ACAT assessment

You might like to prepare a list of questions you or your loved one may have before the ACAT assessment to ensure you have a clear understanding of the services and options available, and how they can help. Have a think beforehand and write down anything you can think of. 

To get you started, some questions you might like to ask include:

  • What types of services are available?
  • What is availability like in my local area?
  • What waiting times may apply?
  • What carer support can we access?
  • How can my assessment help with aged care costs?
  • Are there language-specific providers (if relevant)?
  • What happens if my circumstances or needs change?

Receiving the assessment outcome

After your ACAT assessment, the assessors will consider the evidence provided, and the resident or their nominated representative will receive a letter notifying them of the outcome.

There are three types of letters your loved one may receive:

  1. An approval letter – simply saying your loved one has been approved for assistance.
  2. A letter listing the services your loved one is eligible for, and their referral codes. “This is the letter our Client Services Team will ask for,” says Aleisha. “The codes to look for here are 10 to 12 numbers long and start with a 2.”
  3. ‘My Support Plan’, which could be a number of pages long. “This letter summarises the assessment and provides further detail of your loved one’s circumstances and their needs,” says Aleisha. “Our Clinical Team might ask for this letter after we’ve received your loved one’s application to become a resident, to make sure we can support them sufficiently.”

If you disagree with the decision, you have the right to appeal within 28 days. It is essential to retain copies of all related documents for your records.

“Undergoing an ACAT assessment can seem a little bit daunting, but try to remember the team are there to help, and to ensure your loved one is getting the right kind of support,” says Aleisha.

“Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and ask questions, and get in touch with the Client Services Specialists at TriCare if you have any questions. By understanding the assessment process and your options, you can make informed decisions and ensure the best possible care for your loved one.”