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Aged care isn’t something most people want to think about when they’re planning for a life of freedom and comfort in retirement. But by taking the time to explore a few important issues and questions, you can get the best possible outcome if you should need support in later years.
In a recent survey of more than 5000 older people in WA, only 12% of respondents have a plan in place in the event that they or their partner are affected by dementia. With the number of new cases of people with dementia expected to rise to 318 per day by 2025, it seems there is a growing need for older Australians to plan for a future with extra support.
Kim Betts CFP® from Cooper Wealth Management, runs information sessions on aged care and has considerable experience in advising clients on retirement and aged care plans. She talks with us about why it’s important to take the time to explore your options for aged care and discuss plans with your family and expert advisers.
When I’m discussing retirement plans, I’ll generally bring up the aged care question, but it’s often the thorny branch no-one wants to grasp. We’re in good health now and it makes it much harder to imagine a time when we’ll be too frail to cope on our own at home and need residential aged care to keep us safe and comfortable. And in the past, aged care has had a bad reputation for being the last resort. Many still think of it as something you would only do if you had no other choice.
So a lot of the time, people who come to me for advice about aged care are under a lot of pressure, in terms of time and sometimes their finances too. Maybe they’ve been looking after their partner at home and just can’t cope anymore. Or there’s a sudden fall or illness, you wind up in hospital and returning home isn’t an option. In either case, your choices are much more limited if you haven’t already taken steps to prepare.
Look for the right place
I always stress to people attending our aged care information days that the earlier you start planning, the better off you’ll be. If you’re stuck in hospital, touring potential facilities won’t be possible, so it’s hard to make an informed choice. Plus, many places will have waiting lists so it can be a case of moving somewhere simply because they have space for you. And it could be somewhere further away from your home and family and they won’t be able to see you as often.
By taking the time to look at what’s around, you’ll have much more control over your choice of future home, if and when the time comes to make the move. It will give you the chance to find places in the right location and setting and offering facilities that will suit you best. The majority of aged care homes will be happy to throw their doors open for a tour. You’ll meet other residents and get a feel for what it’s really like to live there.
Ageing in place instead?
In the next decade or so, we’ll be seeing a growing cohort of seniors with much of the baby boomer generation passing retirement age. It’s quite possible they may have different demands and expectations when it comes to aged care and residential care may not be their preferred option. From 2006 to 2016 the proportion of people receiving aged care services as in-home care rose from 18% to 26%. If more seniors choose ageing in place in their own home, in favour of selling to fund residential care, we could see this proportion rise even more by 2026.
Of course, not every home will be suitable for elderly residents, depending on many factors, including access, number of levels etc. This is one of many important issues I ask clients to consider when they’re looking at staying in their home vs. downsizing in retirement. It’s a financial question, but it’s a practical one too, as the home they have now may not adapt well if their health and mobility becomes an issue.
Finances for you – and your partner
Figuring out what you can afford is going to be an important part of making decisions about where you’ll move to and whether to sell your home or not. This is a big and complex issue to discuss and resolve, because there is so much to take into account, particularly if you or a partner still need somewhere to live. Not only must you take into account the initial and ongoing costs of aged care, plus any entitlement to government subsidies and support, you’ll be budgeting extra for a single person’s living expenses. It’s important to bear in mind that many costs for a single person in your home – rates, electricity, home maintenance etc. – will be the same as they were when you lived there together.
Talk to your family and the experts
Having to accept that you’re no longer able to care for yourself is a very emotional process, for you and those you love. That’s why being open with your family about your plans for the future – and the potential for physical or mental incapacity in later years – can save a lot of stress and conflict when decisions need to be made. Your family can feel much more calm and confident to act on your behalf if they fully understand your expectations and plans.
This can also be very important when it comes to the financial side of care arrangements. Sometimes there is concern that inherited wealth is going to be compromised by the cost of aged care. Family members may be more open and understanding if you make it clear that being a burden to them is something you wish to avoid and that care arrangements are necessary to achieving that goal.
Depending on your situation, you may be making power of attorney arrangements for one or more family members and putting advanced healthcare directives in place too. For many aged care homes, these are requirements for you as a resident so your wishes can be acted upon when there is a health crisis or a change in your capacity to make decisions.
To make sure you and your family get the best outcome from an aged care arrangement, advice from legal and financial experts can be very valuable. Financial planners and solicitors with experience in aged care will have the knowledge and sensitivity it takes to guide you towards the best decision for your circumstances.
 Dementia Australia, Dementia Statistics, January 2018, “Currently an estimated 250 people are joining the population with dementia each day. The number of new cases of dementia will increase to 318 people per day by 2025 and more than 650 people by 2056”https://www.dementia.org.au/statistics