It can be complex.
It can be scary.
It can be fraught with emotion.
If an older person can no longer live independently, there are two options for aged care support – partly supported living with in-home care, or moving to fully supported living, these can be referred to as nursing homes, residential care, aged care homes or aged care facilities.
We can assist those who are looking to stay in their home with in-home care however, this blog will focus on those moving into residential care. We have another blog regarding in-home care here.
Clients who come to us for Aged Care services are usually the children, or sometimes the spouse of the person needing care. They come to us uncertain if they’re doing the right thing, uncertain of what to do next and usually with a lot of guilt. We often hear “I promised Mum I’d never put her in care”, sometimes that is a promise we just can’t keep. Sometimes the care required by a loved one is outside what we can provide. Other times, it’s a joint decision but still one that leaves us with a feeling that we could or should have done more for our loved one. We find that once someone has come to us for help with Aged Care, they have considered all options and made the right decision despite their conflicting emotions.
Aged Care is not what it used to be, there has been some bad press in recent times but with the right amount of due diligence you can find a place that will provide high levels of care and support for your loved one. A fear many older people have of care is that they will be left unattended and uncared for. That is an outdated model and a misconception that can seem hard to overcome. With time, and visits to the right facilities this fear can be minimised. Residential care is about maximising quality of life. Of course, leaving your home and independence behind is never going to be easy.
FIND THE RIGHT HOME
That’s why getting it right the first time is so important, once a decision has been made that care is required there are a few steps to go through. Our advisers can help you with these steps and provide support to help you in making the right decisions.
The first step involves an assessment by Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT), this team will determine both the eligibility and level of support required for the person going into care. This is managed by My Aged Care and is the government’s starting point on the aged care journey.
Next, you’ll need to find the right home for your loved one. This includes consideration for not just physical and medical care but will need to encompass social, emotional and spiritual care too. Consideration should be given to location; it may be important to your loved one that family is close by. Also consider the social activities available, the home may have a great space for arts and crafts but that doesn’t matter much if your loved one is a musician or likes to sit in the garden.
Many of these homes will conduct individual tours or group events to showcase their facilities and activities available. With restrictions due to Covid still in place in some homes, this has been done via video chat with tours still taking place via Zoom, Skype etc. You can, and should, visit as many as you like until you find the one that suits. Some will allow a temporary stay (called respite care) so your loved one can try the experience before moving in. You can also apply to multiple homes too.
Every aged care facility is required to have Quality Review at least every three years. You can view the results of each facilities’ review on the My Aged Care website. This should give you peace of mind that a nursing home that looks right and feels right also meets the requirements for providing quality care. The accommodation costs are also available on this site.
UNDERSTANDING THE FEES
Once you have found the right home, there are more decisions to be made. These are generally around financing the care. Our advisers can help you with decisions around the upfront and ongoing costs, whether you should make a lump sum payment or periodic payments or perhaps a combination of both. The right strategy could help with the longevity of funds. Depending on the individual circumstances, some or all of the costs may be met by the government.
As well as the accommodation cost, there will be a basic daily fee to pay and there may be a means-tested care fee. This means-tested fee is determined by income and assets and is reviewed quarterly. Some aged care facilities offer a higher level of service or higher standards of accommodation and food, for these higher services you will be required to pay an additional fee.
It is a complex area with many options available, we can help you with this decision making process by providing clear, simple options.
LONG TERM PLANNING AND CONSIDERATIONS
As we can only guess at how long each of us might live, protecting assets to ensure longevity is important. We will look at the assets and income of the person entering care, for example their home, and identify if selling or keeping the home is the right strategy, there may be a way to protect the proceeds from the sale of a home through the downsizer program. We will consider how to maximise Centrelink entitlements and look at ways to manage cashflow to ensure your loved one can meet the ongoing care and living costs.
Leaving a legacy is important to many people and we can work with you or your loved one to develop an Estate Plan. A good Estate Plan will cover not just assets and how they are distributed, it also includes information about what should happen if you, or your loved one can no longer make decisions for yourself. We can help identify assets that can be left to an estate and that the right beneficiary nominations are in place to ensure all items and assets are distributed as per your wishes.
LOOKING AFTER EVERYONE
When a loved one needs to enter care, there are a myriad of emotions for those assisting in the move. As we mentioned previously there is usually guilt that more could have been done… but is having a parent move in with you, disrupting your family’s life and perhaps having to give up work really the right decision? Only you know that, but most times we find that the person would rather enter care than be a ‘burden’ to their family.
We also see that people experience grief. Grief for the changes in person they have known and grief for the change in relationship where the child is now the caregiver.
It’s important to acknowledge that this situation is difficult for everyone involved, and support and care should be given not just to the person entering care, but for those who helping with decision making process and the move itself.
If you, or someone close to you is ready to make the move into Aged Care, then please give us a call. We have advisers who are Accredited Aged Care Professionals and specialise in this area.
It is very important that you understand that the information above is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser. It is also worth noting that the Australian financial and taxation system is ever changing, and the information above may no longer be relevant. Again, we suggest seeking professional advice from a financial adviser before proceeding.