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One of the most difficult personal challenges in life is making the decision for a loved one to go into an aged care facility. It is typically an emotionally-charged time for an older person who is both leaving the comfort of their home and some level of independence, which can be made more difficult by adding financial woes and possible family conflict into the mix.
The key to ensuring a smooth transition to aged care is forward planning, and having open and honest discussions with parents, grandparents, children or siblings before the decision becomes a necessity.
First things first
Do you or your loved one actually need to physically move into a facility to access the assistance you need? One of the great benefits of the Australian health care system is an increasing focus on ‘help in the home’ for as long as a person can remain there safely. Alongside existing family support, the help in the home options can extend the length of time a person can remain in their home for months and even years. The following are examples of some of the programs and support services that are currently available:
-Home care assistant to attend regularly and complete tasks such as cooking, cleaning, helping shower, shopping, paying bills etc.
-Home Doctor Service (including nurse visits).
-Home nursing service.
-Meals on wheels and other meal delivery services.
-Social support and activities.
-Allied health such as physiotherapy, podiatry or dietician.
The first step to accessing these services is by arranging an Aged Care Assessment.
The Government provides subsidised home care that can help with everyday tasks as well as more complex home nursing. There is great information available at My Aged Care: Help at home.
Time to move on
If it truly is time to move your loved one into care, here are the options available:
-Short term (respite) care
-Low level (hostel) care
-High level (nursing home) care
Respite care is temporary care provided to someone who is being looked after by a family member or friend, and offers the opportunity for a break from the usual care arrangement. Respite care can involve someone coming to the home to look after the person, taking them out for part or all-day activities, overnight care or short stays in aged care facility of a few days or up to several weeks.
Low level care
Low level care facilities (formerly known as hostels) generally provide accommodation and personal care which includes help with dressing and showering if required, and occasional nursing care if required. It generally also includes accommodation, laundry and cleaning, 24/7 staff on call, assistance with mobility, social activities, meals, welfare care and basic level health care.
There are varying levels of low level care, which can range from a separate unit or townhouses in an estate of other similar homes, a self-contained apartment in a retirement building or home (this is becoming very popular), or a simple room and bathroom facility inside a building with common facilities such as kitchen, meals and recreation. There are many varied and different options depending on your preference and your budget.
High level Care
High level care homes (previously known as nursing homes) offer care for people with a greater frailty and who often need continuous nursing care. It provides all the services of low level care, with additional focus on 1 on 1 assistance for all the activities of daily living required. Most high level care facilities also have an on-call nurse and more stringent security requirements in order to protect the health and safety of residents.
How much does aged care cost?
There are several different options for meeting the cost of aged care, and each person should be treated on a case-by-case basis depending on their financial circumstances, level of disability/health and also whether the person has a partner who remains at home.
Most facilities offer the option to pay either a daily care fee, a means tested care fee, or an accommodation bond, or elements of both. It is up to each individual facility how they elect to accept payment. The total cost will be different for each resident as it’s based on their ability to pay. To get more details on aged care home costs see the Government My Aged Care: Fees and charges. It is also important to consider how moving into a facility will impact any Centrelink benefits that the person may receive.
An independent financial adviser can help you to calculate what you will be required to pay to an aged care facility, and can also provide assistance and calculations on which payment option will be the optimal arrangement for your individual needs.
It pays to plan ahead
With a generation of rapidly aging baby boomers, and life expectancy increasing year after year because of advancements in healthcare and medical intervention, it will become more difficult to access places in aged care facilities. Already, there are waiting lists for many providers. If you are not ready to enter a facility yet, talk to your preferred provided about what options they have for a waiting list or placing a deposit so that you have more flexibility and options when you are ready to move. Planning ahead also allows flexibility in regards to the decision on selling or renting out your primary residence (if required).
If you need assistance calculating the best option for your aged care payments, or you would like to start planning for future payments, please contact one of our independent financial advisers on (03) 9999 7200 or contact us here.