Aged Care – are you prepared?
No-one likes to talk about getting old, but when you or a family member needs help, there’s no getting around it. And with the COVID-19 pandemic and the Royal Commission putting aged care well in the spotlight this year, many people are questioning what choices they have for care in their older years.
When should you start thinking about aged care?
Any age is a good time to start thinking and planning for aged care, regardless of whether you are in your early retirement years or are well into retirement.
If you are currently in good health, aged care is probably not on your radar but this is the best time to have the conversation! You’ve still got capacity and you’re not in panic mode.
Or, if you’re lucky enough to still have your parents, starting the conversation with them while they are still healthy is definitely sensible. They might not be thrilled that you’re raising the subject but it gives your parents an opportunity to think about it, so you have an idea what is important to them when choices need to be made.
Don’t accidentally fall into either of these traps:
- Leaving it too late to have the conversation - once Mum or Dad can’t return home from the hospital, you’re in crisis mode. This is not the best time to be making life-changing decisions for anyone.
- Thinking it will never happen - unfortunately the statistics say otherwise. On average, we can expect to live 17-25% of our retirement with a profound disability that may threaten our ability to live independently without care support. With those odds, you at least want to have a quality conversation about the options for aged care and importantly, how you would pay for it.
The need for care can arise suddenly or result from a more gradual decline in capabilities. Moving to a retirement community or accessing home care might be enough, but if things have escalated to a point where these options are no longer adequate it might be time to move into residential care. At this point, it is likely that your family will need to help with the decisions. Having included them in your discussions and planning process may help them to make the right choices.
How to choose which residential care
Moving into residential care is a move to a new home. Even though this is not a home you are buying, if you think about it in terms of a property transaction it might help you to build a checklist to help make the choice.
When you last bought (or rented) a home, you probably did not start your research by looking for the cheapest option, but rather you began by thinking about where you wanted to live and what sort of lifestyle you wanted. This is also a good place to start when choosing residential aged care however instead of thinking how close your home is to work or cafes, you may concentrate more on health and care needs.
- Step 1 - create a wish list of the things that are important to you about where you live and how you live including location, accommodation style, amenities and social activities
- Step 2 – identify services in your preferred location. You might be able to start with local knowledge and ask your friends for recommendations or do a simple internet search for “residential aged care in [area name]”. The government’s MyAgedCare website also has a search function to start you off.
- Step 3 – create a shortlist of suitable services and make contact to see if you can arrange a visit to have a look around.
- Step 4 – ask lots of questions. When taking a tour of potential services ask lots of questions about staff ratios and roles. Look for signs that indicate the staff aim to make the place a home (such as personal items on display that show an interest in the residents) and watch how staff interact with residents. Ask to look at the activity schedule and ask questions about how social interaction is encouraged.
- Step 5 – check the costs for accommodation and additional services and do a reality check to see if it is affordable. This is where you might need advice from a qualified financial planner.
How to find some help
Making an informed decision about aged care is incredibly important. Making the wrong decision can have far-reaching consequences for the whole family. When aged care decisions go badly, the stress can lead to family conflicts, fuelled by the Three G’s of aged care® – grief, guilt and greed.
However, not all advice is good advice. Aged care financial advice is a specialist area. The rules change constantly, as do the available strategies. You don’t need extra stress wondering if you’ve received quality advice! Look for advisers who are qualified as an Accredited Aged Care Professional TM. Ask your financial planner if they have experience or take a look at this section of our website.
If you do plan to seek advice, it is best to do some reading before your first meeting. It helps if you have some understanding of how the rules work or it can all sound like jargon. The MyAgedCare website might be hard to navigate, but it is a good place to start.
You might also want to search your local bookshop (or search online booksellers) to buy a copy of my book Don’t Panic: age the way you want, where you want.
Director, Aged Care Steps
The information in this article is general and does not take into account your particular circumstances. We recommend specific tax or legal advice be sought before any action is taken and refer to the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before investing in any product. Current at 1 November 2020.