Fam­ily money: Su­san Hely

For­ward plan­ning can take the stress out of car­ing for age­ing par­ents

Money Magazine Australia - - CONTENTS - Su­san Hely has been a se­nior in­vest­ment writer at The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald. She is au­thor of the best­seller Women & Money.

It is a fa­mil­iar story among my friends. Their age­ing par­ents are grow­ing frail and need more help with daily liv­ing. It could be trig­gered by ill health or an ac­ci­dent but they can’t con­tinue as they once did. Of­ten the el­derly are over­whelmed by the many de­ci­sions they need to make about their fi­nances, care needs and hous­ing. Many pro­cras­ti­nate and things get worse.

My friends are run ragged, squeez­ing in vis­its to their aged par­ents be­tween the de­mands of their work and own fam­ily. They are of­ten un­aware that there is a wide range of well-priced as­sis­tance that will help the el­derly re­main in the fam­ily home or, if they need to, move into a re­tire­ment vil­lage or res­i­den­tial care. And in many cases their par­ents would qual­ify for govern­ment as­sis­tance to help fund the care.

“Aged care is highly sub­sidised,” says Natasha Panagis, tech­ni­cal man­ager of Aged Care Steps, a re­search com­pany that pro­vides aged care strat­egy ex­per­tise to fi­nan­cial plan­ners. For ex­am­ple, there are four lev­els of home care pack­ages for peo­ple who qual­ify, stretch­ing from low lev­els to help par­ents with clean­ing and driv­ing to med­i­cal ap­point­ments, up to the top level for in­ten­sive care.

Since the re­cent changes to aged home care, you can choose the provider and the carer, which means you can stretch your pack­age much fur­ther than in the past when the fund­ing wasn’t trans­par­ent to the end user. For ex­am­ple, the fourth level of home care is a pack­age worth $48,906 a year, which can buy a lot of hours of good, well-qual­i­fied care. So if you are pay­ing $35 an hour for a carer, you can af­ford around 27 hours of care a week.

But how do you get your el­derly par­ents to be or­gan­ised about the de­clin­ing years so that their hous­ing, care needs and fi­nances are all sorted out?

“It all comes down to plan­ning ahead with their fam­i­lies. Peo­ple typ­i­cally ig­nore the warn­ing signs and fail to plan,” says

Panagis. It is of­ten only dealt with when there is a cri­sis, but the prob­lem with leav­ing it un­til there is an emer­gency is that you are faced with lim­ited op­tions, par­tic­u­larly about aged care homes. Eighty per cent of those who go into aged care go di­rectly from hos­pi­tal be­cause they can’t cope alone in their home af­ter an ill­ness or ac­ci­dent. You want to avoid hav­ing par­ents placed in res­i­den­tial care that is a long way from your home.

It is com­mon for par­ents to be re­sis­tant and never want to move into aged care, ac­cord­ing to Panagis. “They think that aged care is the last re­sort but it is im­por­tant to raise the topic slowly, bit by bit. You need to work them up to the idea. Some of the aged care homes are like lux­ury ho­tels, es­pe­cially the new ones.” Ask your par­ents what their con­cerns are, rec­om­mends Panagis.

But work­ing out el­i­gi­bil­ity for aged care ser­vices is not easy to nav­i­gate. Dif­fer­ent op­tions have spe­cific hur­dles that in­clude in­come and as­sets tests. “What op­tion they choose will have a whole range of fi­nan­cial con­sid­er­a­tions,” says Panagis. Also take a look at the ar­ti­cle on page 46 which has more in­for­ma­tion on this topic.

Panagis rec­om­mends you get good ad­vice from ex­perts, par­tic­u­larly if your par­ent re­ceives the full or part aged pen­sion. She also rec­om­mends fam­i­lies use a place­ment agency to help find aged care. It can ne­go­ti­ate the value of the bond and help with the ad­min.

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