Family money: Susan Hely
Forward planning can take the stress out of caring for ageing parents
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.