Residential Care for Older People 

I’m finding it increasingly hard to look after myself - what are my options?

Depending on your level of need, your options include:

  • Remaining in your own home or living with family, and 
    • having modifications made to your home to improve safety and accessibility. 
    • receiving additional home support (e.g. from help with heavy housework through to food preparation or bathing) from family members or a provider
  • Moving to a place which provides the support you need

The Seniorline website has information about the range of services available to older people, to help you stay independent.

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What is a needs assessment and why do I need one?

You can make your own arrangements for home help, house modifications or move into a rest home.

However if you want your care to be  publicly funded you’ll need to get an assessment done by a Needs Assessment Service Coordination agency (or 'needs assessor').

The needs assessor will visit you and determine what your needs are. If you have high needs they will talk to you about long term care in a rest home.

Alternatively they may decide that your needs can be met if some modifications are made to your house (some funding is available if you are eligible) or by arranging for someone to visit you regularly to help with cleaning (for example). You can find more information about government-funded home help in this Ministry of Health booklet.

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How do I arrange for a needs assessment?

To locate your nearest NASC agency you can ask your doctor, call your local DHB or check the Ministry of Health website.

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How do I choose a suitable rest home?

If the needs assessor has determined that you need a high level of care then residential care (i.e. in a rest home) may be the best option. The needs assessor can discuss with you what you’ll need to look for in a rest home so that you find one that best suits your needs.

They can also provide you with a list of suitable rest homes which are contracted to your DHB to provide the services that you need.
Below are some resources to help you make your decision:

You might also need to consider the rest homes’ fees (see the next question), especially if you aren’t eligible for financial assistance.

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How much will it cost to move into residential care?

The cost of residential care will depend on:

  • the level of care that will be provided (e.g. rest home care, long term hospital care, dementia care)
  • whether the provider is a private business or a not-for-profit organisation
  • whether the provider has a contract with your local DHB to provide these services
  • your eligibility for the Residential Care Subsidy

If you are eligible for the Residential Care Subsidy (see the next question) and can move into a rest home that has a contract with the DHB then most of the cost will be paid for by the government (though you might be charged more if you have requested extra optional services).

If you move into a rest home that has a DHB contract but have to pay the costs yourself, it will be up to a maximum amount set by the DHB (though you might be charged more if you have requested extra optional services).

On the other hand, if you move into a rest home that has no DHB contract, then there isn’t a limit to how much they can charge residents for their services.

Even if you are eligible for the subsidy, it pays to check the admission agreement (between you and the rest home) as this specifies exactly what services will be provided to you and how much you will have to pay for them.

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Is there financial assistance to help with the cost of residential care?

The Residential Care Subsidy is available if you: 

If you qualify for the subsidy, you will still need to contribute towards the cost of your care (e.g. from your NZ Superannuation), but the subsidy will make up the difference and is paid directly to the rest home or hospital. You can get an idea of the asset and income limits on the Work and Income website.

Note that your family home (where you normally live) is usually included in the asset test unless your partner (who does not require residential care) or dependent child still lives there.

More information about income and asset testing for the Residential Care Subsidy is on the Ministry of Health website and the Work and Income website.

It’s worth noting that even if you do not pass the eligibility criteria for the Residential Care Subsidy when you first move into a rest home, you can apply again if your financial circumstances change (e.g. if you run out of money after having paid for your care for a period of time).

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I am not eligible for the Residential Care Subsidy. What are my options?

You may be eligible for the Residential Care Loan  through Work and Income if you still own your former home. This is an interest-free loan that can be paid back when the home is sold, or six months after the borrower passes away, whichever happens first. You may be eligible if the value of your assets (excluding your home) is no more than $15,000 (if you are single) or ($30,000 if you have a partner).

To apply for the loan, you will need to complete a form which is attached to the Residential Care Subsidy Application form. For more information about the Residential Care Loan, call the Residential Subsidy Unit on 0800 999 727 or send them an email.

If you aren’t eligible for the Residential Care Loan and don’t have enough income to pay the rest home fees, you may have to sell your home in order to pay for your care.

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I’ve gifted a lot of assets to family members over the years. Will the value of these gifts be included in the asset test for my Residential Care Subsidy application?

"Gifting" of assets to other individuals or organisations is often done in order to reduce the total value of your assets so that it is under a particular threshold.

For assets gifted more than five years prior to applying for the Subsidy, if you gifted more than $27,000 per year it may be counted in the means assessment. For gifts made within the five years prior to the application, up to $6000 per year is allowable (it is not counted in the means assessment).

More details about gifting in relation to the Residential Care Subsidy are on the Work and Income website.

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What can I do if I’m not happy with the care that the rest home is providing?

If you have concerns about the quality of care provided by a rest home, you should first bring it up with them. Check the admission agreement (the contract between provider and resident) so that you know what services were agreed to and what complaints processes are in place.

If you are still unsatisfied after having completed the rest home’s complaints process, you can contact: 

You can also get help and support from a Health and Disability Advocate.