What is an ACAT and why do I need one?

What is an ACAT and why do I need one?


Before you look at aged care facilities, arrange an Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACAT) assessment for your loved one. They will need an ACAT assessment and approval if you want them to receive aged care services through any level of Home Care Package, receive respite care in an aged care home, or move into an aged care home. Residential aged care facilities cannot consider a place for a person without an ACAT assessment. Your loved one will not be eligible to enter a residential aged care facility, permanently, until they have been approved as eligible, following an ACAT assessment. ACATs assess a person’s physical, medical, psychological, and social needs and make recommendations about long-term care and support. In Victoria, ACAT is ACAS (Aged Care Assessment Service). Your loved one’s doctor or nurse can refer them for an ACAT assessment, or you can contact ACAT, directly, and arrange an assessment.


Aged Care Assessment Teams are made of a range of health professionals, such as geriatricians and other doctors, nurses, social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists. They provide information, advice, and assistance to the elderly and assess the aged care needs of the person. They will determine which aged care services the aged person requires. An assessment gives approval for particular care, and ACATs can also refer clients to other services that require no ACAT assessment.


A member of the local ACAT may ask permission to talk to the person’s doctors to discuss their medical history before they meet with them. After this, they will make a time to meet the person at their home (or the hospital, if they are in hospital). The person may like to ask a friend or relative to attend the meeting for support. The ACAT member will ask questions about their day-to-day living activities and discuss the activities they find difficult to manage. They will also talk about their general state of health and specific health conditions. This will help them work out how much and what type of help he or she needs. They will discuss what support is required to continue staying at home or if they think he or she may be better supported in an aged care home. They will discuss care options and inform the person about services available in their local area and how to access these services.


After the assessment, the ACAT will write to the aged person to let them know the outcome of the assessment. The letter will tell what type of services for which they are eligible and approved to receive, and the reasons. The person should keep a copy of these documents, as they will need to show this record to organisations to confirm they are eligible to receive Australian Government subsidised aged care services.


ACATs cover all of Australia and are based in hospitals or in the local community. By 30 June 2014, 95 ACATs operated across Australia, with teams based in hospitals or in the local community. These assessments are Australian Government funded and free. The ACAT assessment will be an important starting point in searching for a home for your loved one. In addition to the assessment component, it also includes a detailed record of their health circumstances (called an Aged Care Client Record). The Aged Care Client Record provides a comprehensive picture of the person’s needs. It contains a description of what activities they can take care of themselves and those with which they need help. It will advise whether the person can communicate, move about, eat on their own, or if they can mobilise (meaning, are they able to walk about without assistance). The record will also include a section on diagnosed diseases and/or disorders. A typical ACAT, usually, includes a fairly long list, which could include things like falls, cognitive changes, strokes, Parkinson disease, heart related problems, Osteoporosis, degenerative joint diseases, problems with balance and mobility, and incontinence. Part 5 of the record summarizes the assessment and information for service providers. This section will include information about behaviour and psychological aspects, relating to the person, and will provide care strategies to manage any behavioural issues. The record will provide further information on personal hygiene, medicines prescribed, and details relating to functional and activity profile.


As you can tell, the record is a detailed profile, including diagnoses, prognosis, and treatment protocol of the aged person. It provides a wealth of information, required by the aged care home, to establish if they are the correct facility to support and care for your loved one’s unique medical profile needs. The first question any admissions officer at an aged care facility will ask is, “Do you have an ACAT, and can we see it?” It is in the best interest of the home and your loved one to share the ACAT, hiding none of the facts. If you provide your loved one’s Medicare number, the facility can download the ACAT directly from Medicare.


ACAT approvals remain valid indefinitely, unless approval was granted for a specific time period. In the previous arrangement (prior to July 2014), only high care assessments remained valid indefinitely. The distinction between low-level and high-level care was removed on 1 July 2014.  If you have been approved by an ACAT for high-level residential aged care or for low level or high level residential respite care, you will not need to be assessed again, unless your care needs change after you are assessed. ACAT approvals for low-level residential care are valid for 12 months from the date the ACAT member signs the assessment form. You will need a new ACAT assessment if you are approved for this care, and you do not move into an aged care home within 12 months of that date, or if your care needs change after you are assessed.


In the 2012-13 year, ACAT completed 184,280 assessments, and there were nearly 192,600 approvals for government-funded residential, community-based, and flexible aged care. Approximately, 84% of all approvals were for people aged 75 and over.


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