What are the options for aged care?
It’s not easy making the decision to place a loved one into care. Once you’ve made the call, it can be confusing to understand how it all works. It can also be quite a challenging and confronting issue, both emotionally and financially, especially when the decisions you make can affect your financial position and how long the money will last.
Let’s start by looking at the options available.
Staying at home (community care)
If your parents only need minimal care, they may prefer to stay in their own home and get support when they need it.
Support available can be:
- domestic help: housework, preparing meals and shopping
- personal care: bathing and dressing
- help with exercising and staying physically active
- transport to take them to and from appointments or social activities
- equipment to help them get around, such as a walking frame
- nursing care: changing wound dressings and taking their blood pressure
- general home maintenance and modifications to their home to help them stay at home longer.
Visit the Department of Social Services website to find out more.
These are designed as an alternative housing option for people over 55. They generally suit people who want to maintain a level of independence and enjoy the company of others in a community setting, but may prefer a level of security and support. Retirement villages are generally privately owned (they do not receive government funding) and often includes facilities such as:
- onsite management
- communal dining facilities
- organised social activities
- gyms, swimming pools and bowling greens.
Some villages have aged care facilities within the complex, which are regulated by government rules, and may be an easier transition when they need more help.
Aged care homes (residential care)
These homes may be suitable for people who are no longer able to live independently. Aged care homes provide help with day-to-day activities and health care. They can also provide a welcome source of company for some people.
But your parents don’t have to live in an aged care home permanently—there is always the option for shorter stays. For example, an aged care home may be suitable for someone recovering from an illness, who can return home once they have recovered. Aged care homes are different to retirement villages that are independent private facilities typically without aged care support services. Aged care homes are owned by people who have been approved by the government to provide aged care.
Anyone who would like to live in a residential aged care home will have to meet with a member of an Aged Care Assessment Team, who will help them work out the types of care and services they need. Your parents can have this assessment done in their own home if they wish.
How much does aged care cost?
Aged care costs depend on the type of care your parents need, but the government regulates the fees and charges of aged care facilities to help make it more affordable for all.
There are four main types of costs that your parents may be asked to pay:
- a daily fee—this covers living costs like meals, power and laundry.
- a care fee—an additional contribution that some people may be asked to pay. The Department of Human Services will work out if your parents will need to pay this fee, based on their income and assets.
- accommodation payments—depending on your parents’ income and assets, the Department of Human Services will advise whether their accommodation costs will be fully or partially paid by the government. They may also have to pay an accommodation bond.
- fees for extra services—your parents may need to pay additional fees, if they choose a higher standard of accommodation or extra services, depending on the home.
You can look up the maximum daily fees and limits on accommodation payments at the My Aged Care website.
How to find an aged care home
Talking to friends, family, your local doctor or social workers can help you find a suitable aged care home. For more information on aged care homes in your area and what they offer, you can call the government’s My Aged Care hotline on 1800 200 422 or go to the My Aged Care website, which has a ‘Find a service’ tool.
It may help to visit a few different homes, so you can see what you do and don’t like. Before you make a decision, also consider:
- Is the home close to relatives?
- Are there good visiting facilities?
- Is it a welcoming environment?
- Is it well-maintained?
You can apply to as many aged care homes as you like and when a place becomes available, they will get in touch with you.
It’s important to get advice
It’s a good idea to talk to a financial adviser about your parents’ personal circumstances. They’ll bring the right knowledge, expertise and guidance to help you and your parents decide on the next steps.
Once you’ve talked through your needs with an adviser, they may then create a financial plan for you and your parents to consider and discuss. This may include a mix of financial strategies and a recommendation of appropriate products for you.
You and your parents can then make the right decision about aged care, knowing you’re making the most of government entitlements, structuring payments in the most tax-effective way and ensuring that they’ll still get a regular income.
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