Some people call it the silly season, others the holiday or festive season but I call this time of year "aged care season".
It's a time when many families come together and realise that Mum or Dad or both need some (or a lot of) care and support.
It's also a time when carers who have been providing much needed help need a break.
The effect is an increase in the number of people looking to access aged care services.
So if your family gathering turns into a conversation about “what are we going to do to help Mum?” here’s my tips for navigating aged care.
Talk about it
Many people avoid conversations about aged care, there can be an idea that it is a “slippery slope to a nursing home”.
In reality there is a myriad of accommodation and care options out there and starting the conversation sooner rather than later means you will be in the best position to have the widest range of choices possible.
Start with “where”
While a lot of people are adamant about staying at home there can be downsides like maintenance and social isolation.
Some people prefer to live with family and in doing so may establish what Centrelink call a granny flat right.
Granny flats can have enormous implications both emotionally and financially.
You need to make sure you understand the impact on your pension, estate planning and cost of aged care and it’s vital to ensure you know what the rights and responsibilities are for each party.
Ask questions, like “What happens if I need care?” and “What would happen if the children got sick or divorced?” in order to be clear about longer term implications.
Retirement communities are becoming a favoured choice because they often have a strong social network, and you can remain independent but receive care and support if you need it.
For others the decision will be to move into residential aged care.
Possibly the biggest step here is in overcoming the stereotypes – many new homes resemble a 6 star hotel more than an old fashioned “nursing home”.
A crucial consideration in your choice of living arrangements is your ability to get care and at what point you need to move on.
What care do you need now?
What can you reasonably anticipate needing in the future?
Do you want to move somewhere that can support you as you age or would you rather remain independent and move to a care environment when you need it?
There are a range of government funded care services available from Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) and Home Care Packages which can provide you with meals, personal assistance, mobility aids, home modifications and more.
The best thing about home care services is they can be provided wherever you choose to call “home”.
Many people think of aged care homes as a permanent arrangement, but you can have respite stays of up to 63 days per year, which can give carers a much-needed break and enable you to get a good idea of what it would be like to live there.
How much does it cost?
This is often the issue that concerns people the most, and it’s easier to understand you break it down.
First is the cost of accommodation: how much will you pay now, and how much will be you get after you leave?
If you move then you will most likely need to sign a contract for your new accommodation — in the case of a granny flat right that contract may be with your children.
Understanding your contract is vital, as it not only spells out your rights, including the ability to get care, but also your responsibilities.
Then you need to look at your living expenses,
it’s a good idea to do a budget – any ongoing costs associated with your accommodation such as rent in granny flat or service fees in a retirement village should be added to you personal expenses like utilities, groceries and big ticket items like holidays.
Of course you will also need to factor in the cost of your care which will depend on whether you receive private care, a home care package, residential aged care, or a combination.
Last but not least, once you have identified where you want to live, what care you will need and how much it is going to cost you need to figure out how to afford it.
This is where the right financial advice is a good investment.
Rachel is Australia’s Aged Care Guru. She writes regular columns on retirement living and aged care for the Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne’s Age and the Brisbane Times and she regularly speaks on TV and Radio.
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