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Seniors Rights Service

Can we help?

Seniors Rights Service

Seniors Rights Service is a community legal centre that protects the rights of older people. We provide telephone advice, advocacy, legal advice and educational services.

Who are we?

Seniors Rights Service is a community legal service for older people. Find out more about Seniors Rights Service here.

Can we help?

Do you have questions about navigating the aged care system? Find out how Seniors Rights Service can help you.

Contact us

Contact us by phone or email from 9am to 4:30pm on weekdays. All calls are confidential and your privacy will be protected.

Understanding aged care

What do I need to know about aged care services?

A useful overview of aged care services, plus links to the best sources of information on in-home and residential aged care.

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There are in-home aged care services to assist you to stay at home and residential services if you can no longer remain at home. The type of services available to you depend on what is available in your local area, and how well resourced these services are. For more information, go to the My Aged Care website.

If you are caring for an older person at home, short-term respite care is available so you can have a break. For more information, go to the My Aged Care website.

My Aged Care


The Commonwealth government's My Aged Care website and hotline provide comprehensive information on aged care.

Aged care is going through a period of change to expand and improve in-home care and residential aged care services.

For questions about pensions contact Centrelink on phone 132 300 Monday to Friday 8am – 5pm.

For issues with social security rights, entitlements or obligations contact the Welfare Rights Centre on 1800 226 028.

If an older person choses to leave the aged care home where they have been receiving care, and return home, are they able to receive in-home care and services?

The older person has a fundamental right to leave an aged care home at any time, unless there is a legal guardian appointed with an accommodation order which requires them to remain in an aged care home. If the person is independent they should apply for a home care package of care to be in place when they return home in order for them to remain safely in their home.

If there are only basic home support services available, and the person has been assessed as needing high care, what other services can be accessed to the older person?

The Australian government allocates a certain number of packages and services each year, depending on need. Aged care providers can then apply for extra packages to provide care and services providing they have the staff and other resources available. They can also use other service providers in the area to top up the services they are providing to their clients as part of their government subsidised package. Other services can also be arranged privately by the person to provide all the care and services they choose.
At present there are more low care packages available than high care in some areas.

If an older person receiving a home care package changes to another service provider if they are not satisfied?

Yes they can.

Can the client take the remaining package funds with them to the new service provider?

No, the client may not roll over the unused funds when they leave a service provider, except when the service provider agrees. This ruling is soon be changed to allow roll over of funds to remain with the client.

Can a person receiving a home care package access community transport as part of their package?

No, they are required to pay full costs as transport for Home Care packages is not subsidised by the government.
However Commonwealth Home Support Program clients may still receive community transport as part of their services if they choose, and it is subsidised by the government.

Planning ahead

What documents do I need for the future?

Five legal documents that help you protect your health, welfare, financial and legal interests - and distribute your possessions how you want.

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VIDEO: Planning Ahead

Your Will

Your willHaving a Will means that after your death, your possessions - including money, property, jewelry or shares - are distributed according to your wishes. Without a Will, your estate will be distributed according to the laws in New South Wales, which means that people in your family may inherit from your estate even if you do not wish them to.
 
Your Will should be specific and kept up to date.
 
There is a comprehensive ‘planning ahead tools’ website that explores the issues around Wills and other legal documents that protect your interests when you are no longer able to. Click here to visit the website, administered by the NSW Trustee and Guardian and NSW Public Guardian. Translated fact sheets are also available.
 
The Legal Information Access Centre (State Library NSW) also offers a comprehensive online legal guide to wills, estates and funerals.

General Power of Attorney (POA)

A General Power of Attorney means that you appoint one or more people to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf. This person is known as your attorney. The POA is a legal arrangement that operates while you have ‘capacity’ and can be useful to have in place before a minor operation or while you are overseas, in case a decision needs to be made on your behalf.
 
It would be wise to make an Enduring Power of Attorney if you are going to hospital for a major operation.
 

What does ‘capacity’ mean?

This is a legal term defining when a person is capable of making decisions, understanding the facts involved and understanding the choices and the consequences of the decisions. Someone suffering dementia, for example, will at some stage lose the capacity to make decisions for themselves.
 
A solicitor will have a face-to-face conversation with the person, asking open-ended questions, to determine if they have capacity or not. If there is any uncertainty about capacity, a report can be obtained from a legal practitioner. A person should always be presumed to have capacity unless demonstrated otherwise.

Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA)

An EPOA is an ongoing appointment of one or more people to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf. It continues after you lose capacity, as long as you live. It is a powerful document and gives your attorney(s) the discretion to access to your bank accounts and assets. The attorney is under a legal obligation to act in your best interests.

 

You need to think carefully about who should take this role. The EPOA document needs to be registered with the Land and Property Information Office, if property is to be bought or sold by your attorney. An EPOA can be revoked (withdrawn) at any time whilst you have capacity.

 

You can download an Enduring Power of Attorney form here.

Guardianship

A guardian is a person you choose to make decisions on your behalf in areas of health, welfare and accommodation and personal services. Your guardian needs to be someone you trust.
 
Enduring Guardianship only comes into effect when you can no longer make decisions for yourself due to physical or mental incapacity. In relation to physical incapacity you may be impaired to the extent that you are no longer able to care for yourself at home, even with services in place, and would therefore be at risk.
 
In this situation your enduring guardianship would come into effect. If there is uncertainty as to whether your enduring guardianship has come into effect, the Guardianship Division of the NSW Civil and Administration Tribunal can make this decision based on the medical evidence.

Advance Care Directive

An Advance Care Directive is a document that sets out the medical care you wish to receive, or not receive, in case you are no longer able to speak for yourself or make your own decisions. It is particularly important when you have a progressive, life-threatening, or terminal illness. You can specify whether you want resuscitation, life support or artificial feeding.
 
For more information, visit the Advance Care Directives section of the NSW Trustee and Guardianship website.
 
Your guardian should have a copy of your Advance Care Directive document and should make all health professionals aware of it including the doctor, hospital and aged care home. An Advance Care Directive should be drafted in consultation with your doctor, who should witness it and keep a copy.


Aged rights

What are my aged care rights?

Find out about your rights and responsibilities, including the right to complain if things go wrong. Be sure to get advice before signing an aged care agreement.

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What are my rights when I receive aged care?

We all have rights, no matter where we live or how much assistance we need. If you live in an aged care home or are receiving services in your own home, you have the right to:
 

  • Be in charge of your life, your money and your possessions
  • Be treated with dignity and respect
  • Good quality care that meets your needs
  • Have contact with family and friends
  • Culturally sensitive and non-discriminatory service
  • Confidentiality
  • Personal privacy
  • Be informed about your rights, care, accommodation and fees
  • Complain if there is a problem and take steps to sort it out
  • View your records
  • Have an advocate to support you
  • Prompt answers to complaints

What are my responsibilities when I receive aged care?

Your responsibilities include:
 

  • Treating staff and other residents with dignity and respect
  • Keeping a safe working environment for staff, that complies with Workplace Health and Safety requirements
  • Paying the agreed fees and informing the service if you can no longer pay that amount. You can contact Seniors Rights Service about options if this is the case.

 
Read the Charter of Residents’ Rights and Responsibilities and the Charter of Rights and Responsibilities for Community Care here.

Aged care agreements – what do I need to know?

Never sign an agreement that commits you to do things that you are not required to do. It is much easier to get the agreement right before signing it than it is to rectify it after it has been signed!
 
Amend the document and have all parties initial the alterations. If the aged care provider insists that you sign an agreement that you are unhappy with, Seniors Rights Service recommends that you walk away.
 
Seniors Rights Service recommends that you only sign an agreement that reflects the exact conditions under which you are entering the aged care home.

How can Seniors Rights Service help me?

Seniors Rights Service offers advocacy to people using in-home and residential aged care services. If something goes wrong, Seniors Rights Service can guide you in raising your concerns with your service provider.

 

Seniors Rights Service also offers legal advice through the Older Persons’ Legal Service (OPLS) to residents or their legally authorized representatives (attorney or guardian).

 

Call our free, confidential phone advice service on 1800 424 079.

 

Please note – this is general information only. It is not legal advice. If you feel you need legal advice, please speak to a Seniors Rights Service solicitor.

Clauses to look out for in your aged care agreement

Seniors Rights Service has identified a number of problem clauses that are included in standard Resident Agreement documents. They should be closely scrutinised before you sign:
 

Being asked to go guarantor for an aged care resident

There may be a clause that indicates that the appointment of a guarantor is compulsory. There is no requirement in the Act that a guarantor be appointed. Seniors Rights Service suggests that the words be struck out or ‘We require’ be replaced by ‘If’.
 

Heirs being responsible for debts to the aged care provider

There may be a clause that indicates that the agreement is binding on heirs. Seniors Rights Service suggests that the words ‘the heirs’ be replaced by ‘your estate’.
 

Being asked for a large deposit as security

There may be a clause that indicates that you must put up a security if you are paying the bond by periodic payments. There is no legislative support for this. Seniors Rights Service suggests this clause be struck out.
 

Check closely by comparing with Specified Care and Services that you are not being asked to provide items the care provider is obliged to provide

Specified care and services - the care and services that must provide to any resident as needed are set out in the Schedule of specified care and services for residential care services (Schedule 1, Quality of Care Principles 2014).

 

Residents who cannot be charged additional fees for specified care and services:

  • Residents with a high domain category in any Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) domain;
  • Residents with a medium domain category in at least two ACFI domains;
  • Residents without an ACFI classification as yet;
  • Residents who are subject to specific grandparenting arrangements relating to 2008 and 2010 reforms;
  • High Care residential respite care recipients.

 

Being asked to leave an aged care home or service and your rights at this time

There may be a clause that assumes that there will be agreement by both parties and may intimate that the resident cannot ask for their own medical assessment. Seniors Rights Service suggests using wording from Aged Care Act – Security of Tenure.
 

Being asked to pay for room cleaning after you have left the aged care home

Seniors Rights Service is unaware of any provision in the Act that allows an aged care home to request a resident pay for the cost of cleaning the room except where the resident wilfully causes destruction or damage.
 

Being asked to provide a copy of your will

Whilst this is in the interest of the estate and to some extent the service provider, there is no legislative basis for this and would be taken up with the attorney or be included as ‘preferable’.

Access to my personal and medical records

If an organisation holds personal information about you, it must allow you to access the information if you request it. The exception, in relation to health information, is if access would pose a serious threat to the life or health of any person. There are other limited exceptions (see National Privacy Principals #6).

 

The organisation cannot charge a fee for lodging an application for access. However they can charge a fee for reasonable administrative costs such as photocopying and postage expenses.
If you request your records from an organisation and they refuse you the right to access or correct your records, you can complain to the Australian Information Commissioner (1300 363 992) under section 36(1) of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).

 

The National Privacy Principles under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) apply to: individual practitioners working for corporate practices, corporations, incorporated partnerships and commonwealth public institutions / service providers and corporate aged-care facilities. The National Privacy Principles and the Act do not apply to state public institutions (hospitals), small businesses that do not provide health services, or sole practitioners or unincorporated partnerships.

 

What are health records?

Health records are:

 

  • Personal information or opinion about the physical or mental health or disability of a person, or
  • The person's wishes about the future provision of health services, or the health services that have been, or are to be provided.

 

As a patient you have a right to obtain a copy of, or inspect, your health records. You need to request access in writing, including your name, address and sufficient information to identify the health information. Your request must specify whether you want a copy or you want to inspect the records.

 

Within 45 days of your request you must be allowed to have a copy of the records or to inspect the records and make handwritten notes. Where access is refused, written reasons must be given for the refusal within 45 days of the date of your request. There are limited grounds for refusing access.

 

If no response is received or the request is refused by the practitioner or private hospital, a complaint may be made to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner NSW (02) 8019 1600.

 

A guardian appointed under an enduring guardianship appointment has the same rights to access personal information as the individual who made the guardianship appointment.
Applications for access to public hospital documents are to be made under the freedom of information legislation, Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW).

 

Applications for access to health records to private hospitals and private practitioners are made under the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 (NSW).

How am I protected from exploitation by aged care workers?

There is a Code of Ethical Conduct for organisations that deliver in-home care under the Home and Community Care (HACC) program. The Code prevents your service provider and their staff from assisting you in any legal or financial matters, for instance:
 

  • Operating your bank account unless you give proper authority
  • Acting as power of attorney
  • Acting as executor of your estate
  • Signing credit cards
  • Offering financial advice
  • Offering to buy something you own
  • Accepting loans or gifts, including benefiting from your will.

 
If you do give proper authority to the HACC service provider to make transactions on your behalf, they are obliged to keep written records of these transactions.

What if things go wrong?

You have the legal right to complain about any aspect of the care and services you are receiving (The Aged Care Act 1997). If you receive care at home or in residential aged care, it is best to speak to the manager or senior staff. Raising issues or complaints can be beneficial for all concerned. Your complaint could lead to positive changes that will benefit other people who receive the services.
 
Your aged care provider must:
 

  • Have a complaints process in place
  • Use this process to resolve any complaints.

Your aged care provider is obliged to tell you about its complaints process and help you to use it. If you wish, you can have someone with you (an advocate) to help you raise issues or make a complaint.

What can I complain about?

Anything! You can complain if you are unhappy with any of the services provided, such as meals, personal care, cleaning of your room, medical appointments, activities, etc.
 
You can also complain about the way you are treated by staff or management.

How can I make a complaint?

There are three ways to make a complaint:
 

  • 1. If you feel comfortable to approach management, speak to the manager or senior staff. Every service has a complaints process. You should have been told how the process works for your service when you first became a resident or client. ‘Residents and relatives’ meetings at aged care homes are another opportunity to raise issues and sort out day-to-day problems.
  • 2. Get someone to help you make a complaint. If you feel uncomfortable about making a complaint yourself, or you are not sure about what to do, or you simply want support and advice, Seniors Rights Service can assist you to raise your concerns.
  • 3. Contact the Aged Care Complaints Scheme. Anyone can make a complaint either in writing, or by phone or e-mail. A staffer will listen to your concerns, discuss options, and make a preliminary assessment of the complaint. If accepted, they will work with you and your service provider to resolve your complaint. The Scheme is free and can be contacted on 1800 550 552.

Can Seniors Rights Service assist me in making a complaint?

Yes. Seniors Rights Service can explain your rights, act on your behalf, or assist you to act for yourself. Contact Seniors Rights Service on 1800 424 079.
 
Please note – this is general information only. It is not legal advice. If you feel you need legal advice, please speak to a Seniors Rights Service solicitor. Seniors Rights Service solicitors can advise you on your legal options in relation to a complaint.

Consumer rights

What are my rights as a consumer?

Older people can be exploited financially or targeted by scammers. If you think you have been ripped off, Seniors Rights Service can support you in making a complaint.

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What are consumer rights?

Consumer rightsEvery time you buy something, whether it is a product or a service, you are entering into a contract. This means that you have legal rights in relation to the product or service. These rights are known as consumer rights, and are upheld by law.

How do I protect myself from being exploited by tradespeople?

The safest option is to employ only licensed tradespeople. To avoid being exploited:
 

  • Be wary of tradespeople who turn up at your door asking for work.
  • Ask to see the tradesman’s license and call 13 32 30 (Fair Trading) to check that the license is still valid.
  • Ask for a written quote for the job. Do not rush into anything.
  • Get two or three quotes from different licensed tradespeople so you can compare prices.
  • Ask friends and relatives if they have used a tradesperson who did a good job and has good references.

I have bought a new product and it does not work properly. What can I do?

Always keep the receipt for your new products. If a new product does not work properly, you are entitled to a refund, replacement or repair. Return the product to where you bought it, with the receipt, to get a replacement product or a full refund of the cost or a repair.
 
Under Australian Consumer law there are guarantees implied into the sale of all goods and services regardless of the terms of the written contract. These guarantees relate to the quality of the goods, that the goods are fit for the purpose described by the seller, that the goods fit the description given, and that the goods match the sample.
 
If there is an infringement of one of these guarantees you need to return the goods as soon as possible, as time limits apply. You have three years from the date you detect a defect to lodge a claim in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal under the Consumer Claims Act for breach of a guarantee.

What is a reverse mortgage?

Reverse mortgagesAs an older person, you may own your home but not have enough cash to meet your needs. You probably can't take out an ordinary loan because you are unable to repay it. Loan products that release the equity in your home (known as ‘reverse mortgages’ or ‘home equity loans’) may be a way around these problems, because they allow you to borrow against the value of your home while you still live there.

What do I need to consider before taking out a reverse mortgage?

These loan products need very careful consideration. You need to understand the consequences of the terms of the mortgage.
 
For example:
 

  • The interest is added to the loan amount and can build up over time, eating into the equity of your home.
  • There could also be terms called ‘default provisions’ which can allow the bank in certain circumstances to demand the immediate payment of the full loan amount plus interest. This could cause you to lose your home.
  • You may be left with insufficient funds to choose to enter into a retirement village or an aged care facility, if this becomes necessary.
  • Any dependents who live with you may be left without a home to live in after you have passed away.
  • The bank rather than your children may be the beneficiary of your estate.

 
It is essential that you obtain independent legal advice before you decide to take up a reverse mortgage loan. There may be other options such as downsizing to a smaller home that you could consider.

Before you sign a reverse mortgage

The way you use the money from the reverse mortgage loan can also impact on the amount of age pension you receive. Before you sign any loan documents, take time to find out about the financial implications from one or more of the following organisations:
 

  • A Financial Information Service Officer at Centrelink:
    ph: 13 23 00
  • FIDO - Australian Securities and Investment Commission - financial tips and safety checks:
    ph: 1300 300 630
    www.fido.gov.au 
    About financial products - equity release

What are the issues with Granny Flats?

A "Granny flat" is a term given to an arrangement where you, an older person, agree to live with your child on the same property. You make a financial contribution to a property in exchange for the right to live on the property.
 
This financial contribution might involve a payment for the construction of a separate self-contained flat on the property, or payment for renovations to an existing house such as the construction of a downstairs or upstairs area in a separate part of the house.
 
The financial contribution might also be a payment towards the purchase of a house on the understanding you will have the right to live there for the rest of your life with your children. There may also be an agreement that your child will provide you with physical care and support for the rest of your life.
 
Problems can arise with these arrangements if you have not considered what would happen if your circumstances change or if there is a dispute as to what you and your family have agreed. There are some things you can do to ensure that if things do not work out your legal interest in the property is protected.
 

Five tips
  • Get a formal agreement in writing
  • Get independent legal advice
  • Hope for the best but plan for the worst
  • Find out if a change of arrangements will affect your pension
  • Get legal advice as soon as things go wrong.

How can I find out more about my consumer rights?

Fair Trading NSW has a comprehensive publication ‘Consumer information for older Australians’ that details your rights as a consumer in all areas of your life, from your home to your health.

How can Seniors Rights Service help me with consumer rights issues?

Seniors Rights Service can inform you of your rights, act on your behalf, or assist you to act for yourself. Contact Seniors Rights Service on 1800 424 079.
 
Please note - this is general information only, it is not legal advice. If you feel you need legal advice please phone Seniors Rights Service and ask to speak to one of our solicitors.

Access to my personal and medical records

If an organisation holds personal information about you, it must allow you to access the information if you request it. The exception, in relation to health information, is if access would pose a serious threat to the life or health of any person. There are other limited exceptions (see National Privacy Principals #6).

 

The organisation cannot charge a fee for lodging an application for access. However they can charge a fee for reasonable administrative costs such as photocopying and postage expenses.
If you request your records from an organisation and they refuse you the right to access or correct your records, you can complain to the Australian Information Commissioner (1300 363 992) under section 36(1) of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).

 

The National Privacy Principles under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) apply to: individual practitioners working for corporate practices, corporations, incorporated partnerships and commonwealth public institutions / service providers and corporate aged-care facilities. The National Privacy Principles and the Act do not apply to state public institutions (hospitals), small businesses that do not provide health services, or sole practitioners or unincorporated partnerships.

 

What are health records?

Health records are:

 

  • Personal information or opinion about the physical or mental health or disability of a person, or
  • The person's wishes about the future provision of health services, or the health services that have been, or are to be provided.

 

As a patient you have a right to obtain a copy of, or inspect, your health records. You need to request access in writing, including your name, address and sufficient information to identify the health information. Your request must specify whether you want a copy or you want to inspect the records.

 

Within 45 days of your request you must be allowed to have a copy of the records or to inspect the records and make handwritten notes. Where access is refused, written reasons must be given for the refusal within 45 days of the date of your request. There are limited grounds for refusing access.

 

If no response is received or the request is refused by the practitioner or private hospital, a complaint may be made to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner NSW (02) 8019 1600.

 

A guardian appointed under an enduring guardianship appointment has the same rights to access personal information as the individual who made the guardianship appointment.
Applications for access to public hospital documents are to be made under the freedom of information legislation, Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW).

 

Applications for access to health records to private hospitals and private practitioners are made under the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 (NSW).


Elder abuse

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse happens when older people are exploited financially, or harmed physically or psychologically by the people they trust. Seniors Rights Service can provide help.

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The NSW Elder Abuse Helpline

Elder abuse includes financial, psychological, physical, verbal or sexual abuse and neglect of an older person by someone they trust.
 
In NSW a free, confidential Elder Abuse Helpline provides information, advice and referral for people who experience, witness or suspect the abuse of older people in their homes in NSW.
 
Call the Elder Abuse Helpline on 1800 628 221

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is a "single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person" (World Health Organisation).
 
The fundamental harm of elder abuse arises from the older person’s ‘expectation of trust’ toward their abuser. Elder abuse includes harms by people the older person knows, such as a spouse, partner or family member, a friend or neighbour, or people that the older person relies on for services.

Common ways older people are abused

Examples of Financial abuse of older people include:
 

  • Attorney abusing their role under an enduring power of attorney appointment by failing to act in your best interest and instead acting for their own benefit (for example using your money for their own benefit)
  • Unconscionable conduct - for example where you feel pressured to sign a loan contract by family members without receiving your own independent legal advice
  • Undue Influence - for example if you are unwell and pressured to sign a will by your children that you may not agree with and it is not your own decision
  • Theft - for example where you lend a child money and they fail to pay back the loan as agreed
  • Granny flats - for example you are encouraged to contribute to your child’s home in return for a right to reside there for life and then you are evicted from the home.

 
Physical abuse includes where a person slaps, hits, pushes, sexually abuses you or restrains you.
 
Psychological abuse includes calling you names, threatening you, intimidating you, swearing and shouting at you or humiliating you, refusing to let you go out and do things and have contact with your friends and family and support services, following you, neglecting you and failing to give you proper food and clothing or personal care, pressuring you to give money or to sign over control of your property.

Financial abuse of people with dementia

A discussion paper explains this complex issue and highlights the fact that people with dementia are particularly vulnerable to financial abuse. There is a strong argument to plan ahead for the management of your financial affairs, in case of dementia. The paper includes measures that could help prevent financial abuse.
 
Seniors Rights Services has also been featured on SBS radio talking about Financial Abuse of the elderly. You can hear the interview here.

Elder Abuse can be stopped

Elder Abuse is an act that causes deliberate or unintended harm to an older person, from a person they know and trust.
 
Around one in 20 older Australians experiences some form of abuse from someone they trust, who is often a member of their own family. This abuse can be financial, emotional, physical and even sexual.
 
Over the past five years, Elder Abuse has most commonly included financial and emotional abuse and in 80 per cent of cases the abuse was carried out by a family member.
 
Older people may be vulnerable to abuse, which can often go unnoticed, especially when there is increasing frailty and physical or mental decline. Elder Abuse can be a hidden problem as it happens in the relationships where it is least expected to occur.
 
It is important that the community has a clear understanding of the rights of older people and how these rights can be protected. This includes being aware of the signs of Elder Abuse and knowing where to go for help.
 
Recognise the signs and help put an end to Elder Abuse - visit www.elderabusehelpline.com.au for more information.
 
Take action if you suspect abuse is occurring – call the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline and Resource Centre on 1800 628 221.

How can Seniors Rights Service assist me with information about elder abuse?

If you experience any forms of abuse you can contact Seniors Rights Service for free confidential legal advice on your legal rights.
 
Seniors Rights Service offers free legal advice through the Seniors Rights Legal Service. Call our confidential phone advice service on 1800 424 079.

Retirement villages

What do I need to know about Retirement Villages?

Moving into a retirement village is a big decision, and it’s important to get all the facts first. Seniors Rights Service can provide support and legal advice.

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What is a retirement village?

Retirement villagesA retirement village is a residential complex, occupied mainly by retired people aged 55 years and over. Accommodation ranges from freestanding cottages to villas and blocks of units. Most villages offer car parking in an attached garage or designated parking spot close to the villa or unit.
 
For more information see the Seniors Rights Service fact sheet Comparison of Retirement Villages and Aged Care Homes.

What types of accommodation are there in retirement villages?

Self-care villas or units are designed for residents who require no assistance with daily living activities. Generally, the villas or units are self-contained, with their own laundry. Recently constructed villages have wheelchair access, with internal halls and doorways designed to accommodate residents using disability aids.
 
Serviced apartments are designed for residents who require assistance with their daily living activities. Depending on the needs of the individual, assistance can be provided in preparing meals, laundry and cleaning. Meals are served in a communal dining room, but some villages will provide meals to the resident's apartment. Residents usually have access to personal and or nursing care, generally on a fee-for-service basis. Residents have the right to bring in outside services to assist with such care.

What support is available in a retirement village?

Retirement villages do not provide aged care.
 
Villages offer a range of services that are funded by the residents including gardening, repairs and maintenance of units. Any personal assistance or care must be arranged and paid for separately. If you live in a village, you can make use of in-home aged care services if you qualify for this.
 
Retirement villages are regulated under the NSW Retirement Villages Act 1999 to provide residential accommodation for people who are able to care for themselves.

What do I need to know about a retirement village before I move in?

Find out:
 

  • Is the retirement village near local shops, transport, doctors, churches, etc?
  • Will the village lifestyle, including social and religious activities, suit me?
  • Are the village grounds secure, pleasant and well tended? Is there adequate external lighting and paths for easy access?
  • What alternatives do I have if I become too frail to live alone? For example, does the village have services such as nursing care and an emergency call system?

What should I ask the village manager and the residents before making the decision?

Making a decision
You need to know the rules for occupants of the village. For example, can I make changes to the inside of my premises, have someone visit or live with me, keep a pet, do my own gardening, etc.
 
Ask for the village’s General Enquiry Document and make sure you have adequate information about the village. It is important to show all the documentation to an independent solicitor so your legal rights and obligations are clear to you. If you are interested in a unit, ask for the Disclosure Statement for that unit.

Do I need to see a solicitor before I sign my documents?

It is very important that you talk to a solicitor before you sign anything. Talk to your family solicitor, or ask for Seniors Rights Service’s referral list of solicitors with expertise in retirement village law. You may have overlooked something important, for example:
 

  • Am I choosing to move to a retirement village because the general maintenance of my house has become too difficult for me?
  • Have I considered other options, eg. home help, self-contained or serviced apartments for older people?
  • Have I looked at other villages to compare the homes, services and financial arrangements?
  • Will I be eligible for rental assistance from the Commonwealth Government?
  • Do I fully understand the contract I am about to sign?

 
Call Seniors Rights Service if you need telephone advice on 1800 424 079.

Things to think about before making your decision

  • What services will I need? Are they offered and how much do they cost?
  • Does the village have adequate services and accommodation for my present needs and will it continue to do so as I get older or if I get sick, become disabled, need a wheelchair, walking aid or bath rail?
  • Can I pay the recurrent charges / levies comfortably on my present income?
  • What will my financial position be, if my spouse or partner dies?
  • If the recurrent charges / levies rise, would my future income be sufficient to meet the payments?
  • What do I do if the village manager refuses to carry out repairs to my unit?
  • What do I do if the village management withdraws services or facilities at the village?
  • How do I make a complaint?
  • Do I have to join the residents’ committee?
  • When I leave the village, how and when do I get my money back?

Leaving the village – by choice or not

The operator of a retirement village may apply to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal for an order terminating your residence contract if it believes that you cannot live there independently because of a physical or mental incapacity. But the Tribunal can only make such an order if it has considered a medical report by a doctor nominated by you and you must be given reasonable opportunity to supply such a report.
 
The operator can also terminate your contract on other very limited grounds. Please call Seniors Rights Service and ask to speak to one of our solicitors if you want to discuss this, or have any concerns.
 
Contact Seniors Rights Service on 1800 424 079.

Can Seniors Rights Service assist me with Retirement Village problems?

Seniors Rights Service runs the Retirement Village Legal Service. Please call and ask to speak to one of our solicitors if you have any concerns. We can explain your rights, refer you to other solicitors, or assist you to act for yourself.
 
Contact Seniors Rights Service on 1800 424 079.
 
Please note – this is general information only. It is not legal advice. If you feel you need legal advice, please speak to a Seniors Rights Service solicitor. Seniors Rights Service solicitors can advise you on your legal options in relation to a complaint.