Ageing Your Way
Once upon a time, aged care was synonymous with end-of-life care in a nursing home, complete with green vinyl floors, security doors and the mixed aroma of overcooked vegetables and stale urine. Many of us, racked with grief and guilt as we said goodbye to grandparents or parents, swore we would never spend our final days that way.
Aged care today means many things; from low-level intermittent assistance with gardening and cleaning the house, to integrated home care packages that combine clinical care, personal care and domestic support in the home. Residential aged care is also available, although it is moving away from the scenario described above. Many residential facilities now resemble five-star hotels in terms of décor and offer extra services, like spa treatments and social activities.
But nothing in life is free, and while aged care (both residential and in your home) is heavily subsidized by the federal government, there is a contribution to be made to the cost of care by us all.
The bulk of us are also expected to pay for our accommodation in residential care. The accommodation costs can cause consider- able angst for many families, as they can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. But since we all want the best care as we age, as well as quality of life, we need a plan to fund it.
And before you say, ‘I’ll worry about it if it happens’, those who defer thinking about aged care until a health crisis hits, often leave themselves without the time to review options. This may result in less than optimal outcomes.
Aged care alternatives need to be considered in advance, discussed between family members and strategically planned for as a normal part of retirement planning. These are never easy or comfortable conversations to have with your family, so advice from an accredited aged care adviser may help to navigate the pitfalls and provide an objective voice.
Including the family in this planning process and sharing your plans can be a way to minimize and manage The Three Gs of Aged Care®: grief, guilt and greed:
As a person experiences frailty the spouse and children are likely to experience grief at the change in that person and in the ongoing relationship. The person needing care may also experience grief over the changes in their life. A plan can help remind you what is important.
An aged care residence may be the best and safest way to look after an older person, but many people feel guilty about sending a spouse or parent to live in a home rather than providing the care themselves. Residential care may not be your first preference. It is important to have discussed options with family and give “permission” to make the decisions they need to make.
Families and money are often not a good mix. The lure of an impending inheritance can make people act in their own interests, not yours. Choose carefully who you leave in charge of your finances and think about how you can ensure that the rest of the family knows what’s happening so there are checks and balances.
With life expectancies increasing, our years in retirement can now be seen to fall into three distinct stages; the active years, the quiet years and the frailty years; the third phase being those final three to five years of life, generally after age 80, when we are likely to need some level of care due to declining independence.
Preparing for the frailty years allows you to maintain control over your quality of life – so you can age your way.
Failing to consider your needs in the frailty years means potentially leaving a significant proportion of your retirement years unfunded and to chance. And as the table below shows, planning can start as early as mid-life, when we start to think about the adequacy of our savings to meet our retirement goals, while also potentially assisting ageing parents with their own aged care needs.
The baby boomers are approaching or entering their frailty years now. Many of this group learnt from the experience of looking after their own parents and are determined to do things differently.
Frailty is a normal and expected part of retirement. While we may increasingly need help and support, it does not mean we need to sacrifice quality of life during this period.
It is never too early to start planning where you might live, how you would live there and what resources you have (both in family and finances) to fund the care and lifestyle you want.
Louise Biti, Director, Aged Care Steps and Third phase steps