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Help to remain living at home if you have a chronic disease or serious illness

9-minute read

Key facts

  • People with a chronic or terminal illness, and people who are older and frail, may need help in the home.
  • Planning can help you get the right care and assistance for your specific needs.
  • Home modifications, medical equipment and emergency call systems can help you feel safer and more independent at home.
  • Government subsidies are available for some home care services, continence products and medical equipment through programs such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and Home Care Packages.

Who may benefit from home-based care?

Anyone with a chronic or terminal illness, or people who are older and frail, but wish to stay living at home, may benefit from home-based care.

Everyone’s needs are different, but depending on your situation, you might benefit from:

  • home modifications (such as a stair lift or ramp), if you have a condition that affects your mobility and strength
  • an emergency call system, if you live alone and/or are at risk of falls
  • food or meal delivery service (such as Meals on Wheels), if you are unable to shop or cook
  • signs or pictures to help you remember tasks, if you have dementia
  • mobility equipment

Why plan for home-based care?

Planning can help you get the care and treatment you need. With many conditions, the right assistance can help you remain independent and able to make your own decisions. If you plan well, it is also easier to change the type and level of care you receive, if your situation changes.

If you have a condition such as dementia that will progress over time, it is a good idea to prepare for when you are no longer able to manage your own affairs.

Depending on your situation, you might plan:

  • for a home carer (a partner, relative, volunteer or paid carer)
  • for regular help with bathing, going to the toilet, dressing and other self-care tasks
  • for nurse visits to provide services such as changing dressings or to help manage incontinence
  • for help with household tasks such as cleaning, shopping and gardening
  • to undergo advance care planning, so you can express your treatment and care preferences if you are no longer able to communicate
  • to appoint a legal decision maker on your behalf with an enduring power of attorney

What options for home-based care should I consider?

Home modifications

Home modifications can allow you to stay independent and prevent possible injuries. For example, if you are in a wheelchair, you might need to widen doorways, relocate light switches, lower a kitchen benchtop or install ramps.

Essential medical treatment

If you need medical treatment or other appointments, ask about the best way to meet with your health practitioners. They might be able to visit and treat you at home. You might also be able to attend appointments using telehealth via phone or video call.

Subsidised transport services are also available to take you to doctors’ or hospital appointments.

Medical equipment at home

You might be eligible for special equipment to manage your condition.

For example, if you:

  • have kidney failure, you may be able to have dialysis at home
  • have a chronic lung condition, you may be prescribed home oxygen therapy, which may be subsidised by the Australian Government
  • have trouble walking, you might benefit from aids such as a walking frame or wheelchair
  • have trouble speaking, you might benefit from special equipment, such as a speech-generating device

The Carer Gateway has information on financial support for aids and equipment.

Plan for unexpected power outages

If you rely on medical equipment that needs electricity, then you should plan for possible power cuts.

The first step is to register as a ‘life support customer’ with your electricity provider.

Once registered, they will notify you in advance of intended power outages. You will also need to have a plan in place for unexpected blackouts.

To avoid problems with electricity blackouts:

  • ensure you have backup medical equipment fully charged at all times
  • keep a list of emergency numbers, including your doctor, hospital and someone nearby to assist you if the power goes out

Find out more about energy and essential medical equipment from the Australian Energy Regulator.

Emergency call systems

An emergency call system linked to a telephone can be used to raise the alarm if something goes wrong and you need help. There are different types of emergency call systems, such as a transmitter, worn around your neck, that can activate the call system if you fall or need help.

Find out more about different types of emergency call services or phone the Independent Living Centres Advisory Service on 1300 885 886.

People with life-threatening medical conditions can register with their telecommunications company as a priority customer. Telstra is the only carrier required to provide this service. Other companies may choose to provide it. Contact Telstra for information on how to register for its priority service.

Keep a key with a neighbour

It is a good idea to keep a key with a neighbour or relative who lives close by. That way, if you need help but can't get to the door, emergency services will be able to get in.

Who provides funding for home-based care?

Home care services subsidies

You may be eligible to receive government subsidies towards home care services, including personal care services, allied health support and nursing.

Subsidies may be available through a few schemes:

  • National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) aims to give people with permanent disabilities personal care and support. Call 1800 800 110 for more information.
  • Home Care Packages provide a package of support, including personal care, nursing care, food services and allied health support services to meet the needs of Australians over the age of 65 years and some younger people with disabilities.
  • Commonwealth Home Support Programme provides entry-level home support for essential home modifications for:
    • people 65 years or older (50 years or older for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people)
    • people 50 years or older (45 years or older for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people) who are on a low income, homeless or at risk of becoming homeless

State and territory governments also have subsidised home help schemes. For more information, see help at home.

Medical equipment and supplies subsidies

You might be eligible to receive additional government subsidies for medical equipment and supplies:

Resources and Support

  • If you are getting older and live on your own and feel you might need some help, you can explore the types of assistance that might suit you at myagedcare.
  • Charities and organisations that deal with specific conditions or types of disability, such as Vision Australia and the Cancer Council might also be able to offer assistance.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2023

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