Care to get move on
A late start to aged care planning can be costly, writes Anthony Keane
SENIOR Australians are waiting too long to think about aged care, putting unnecessary strain on themselves and their finances.
Despite more choice being offered around aged care, the system remains a maze for most people and is becoming more user-pays.
Aged care specialists say that while the average age of people entering residential care is around 83, people should start thinking about and planning for their future needs in their 50s and 60s.
Delaying decisions can increase stress when a crisis occurs, while long waiting lists for new home care packages mean that over-65s need to prepare earlier.
Age Care Directions executive manager Andrew Boden said many people put off thinking about it because they did not want to lose independence, did not want carers in their homes, and had heard negative stories about nursing homes.
“They see it as a negative experience,” he said.
“The biggest issue with aged care and accommodation is the lack of education, with misinformation prevalent, and part of the reason is that people are fearful.”
Home care packages were overhauled last year to give seniors greater choice in spending their government funding of up to $49,000 annually to help them to stay at home. Waiting lists for these packages have grown beyond a year, and Mr Boden said people might be able to get a lowerlevel home care package – perhaps $16,000 a year – as an interim step, or benefit from the Commonwealth Home Support Program which delivered discounted services.
Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said the long waiting list for home care and residential care, while unacceptable, could be managed with extra help from family, friend and community groups. He said the myagedcare.gov.au portal was also a good support for aged care planning.
Advantage One Financial Services managing director Andrew Venning said early advice could lead to seniors not paying more than they should.
“Talk with your family. Have them understand your feelings and needs. Get help. Do your research,” he said.
Mr Venning said the idea of having to give up the family home to move into aged care was false, although “with recent government changes it is less attractive to rent the family home, as the rental income is now part assessed”.