Australia has an ageing population and planning for aged care – whether for yourself or a family member – is something that many of us might be starting to think about. It’s wise to start planning your future care early, so that you have the best chance of living your life the way you desire. There are many choices and options to consider, and decisions you’ll need to make. Here’s what you need to consider when planning aged care for yourself or a family member.
What are your options for aged care?
The aged care system in Australia provides a number of options to consider when it comes to your future care. Each one is designed to meet the differing care needs of each individual. These options include:
- Remaining in your home
- Remaining in your home with access to a Home Care Package
- Retirement living
- Residential aged care facility
Remaining at home tends to be the option of choice for older people who are in good health and relatively independent, and it does provide the benefit of being able to stay in your familiar environment. However, it can get lonely as you age, and difficult to manage if the condition of your health deteriorates. Home Care packages can provide support, as well as some company, and alleviate many of the problems of ageing at home. Home Care packages provide help with day-to-day tasks, personal care and clinical care.
Retirement living facilities are a good choice for older people who don’t need a high level of care but who might in the future. Retirement complexes offer flexibility and independence, plus a higher level of social and community interaction. Residential aged care facilities provide residential accommodation and health care for older people who are unable, for whatever reason, to remain living at home.
You need to assess all your options and make an effective decision about what your future will look like. Think about your beliefs, preferences and values for current and future care and lifestyle. Consider your goals for your life in light of the limitations you might need to account for (such as medical conditions or treatment). What lifestyle would you prefer to live? What things are important for you to be able to enjoy life? What do you hope to achieve in the future? What do you want to happen if you should become unwell?
If planning care for a family member, the extent of their involvement will depend upon any medical diagnoses, the stage of disease progression and their cognitive capacity. Read more about how to have the conversation about aged care here.
If planning care for yourself, consider the wishes of your children or other close family members when making the decision – but remember, the choice has to work for you first.
Read more about your choices regarding aged care in Australia here.
What are the costs involved for each option?
One of the important considerations for each option is whether you can afford it – and how you will afford it. Do your research and consider what ongoing fees and costs are involved with each option, and what they cover. Even if you plan on living in your own home, you’ll still need to factor in all the costs involved with that, such as utilities and house upkeep and maintenance. Once you know exactly what costs are likely to be involved, you’ll be able to make a much more informed and workable decision.
What is your current financial situation?
It can be quite an involved decision choosing your path into aged care, and there are many factors to be considered and planned for. The financial aspect is a huge consideration. You need to consider your current and projected future budget when it comes to planning for an indeterminate future. You don’t know how long your life will be, so it can be tricky planning how much income you’ll need, and determining whether you have enough for the lifestyle you wish to lead. Consider all your assets, your bank balances, the amount of income you’ll receive from the age pension, and any other ongoing sources of income. Also consider whether you might be eligible for government subsidies applying to home care or residential aged care. Creating an accurate picture of your financial situation will give you clarity and direction for your future choices.
What are your plans for your current home?
What you do with your family home will directly impact on the funds you have available for other aspects of your care. Your home is usually a major asset, and what you do with it needs to be considered very carefully. The decision you make may impact how much pension you receive (in cases of a means-tested pension). If releasing funds are necessary for a move into aged care, selling your home might be the best option (although this will lead to an increased assessable income and may increase your means-tested care fees). If not, you have a wide range of choices you could make, from passing your home to your children, renting it out or borrowing against it to pay aged care fees.
Again, consider the wishes of your children and family, as the family home can be a place of strong emotional connection and a hub of memories. While you need to make the best decision for yourself, there may be options you hadn’t considered, such as part disposal of your home, that might allow you to keep the family home for longer. It’s a big decision, so don’t make it lightly – make sure you get sound financial advice and consider all options and wishes before making your decision.
Have you got your affairs in order?
When planning your future care needs, it’s wise to make or update your will to ensure all matters relating to your estate are managed in the way you would like. Inform your family of the name of the executor or your will.
As well, consider to whom you would like to delegate decision-making duties if you are unable to make important decisions for yourself. Organise an enduring power of attorney for a trusted family member, friend or lawyer, assigning the power of making decisions and acting for you. Make sure they know your wishes, hopes and goals when it comes to your care and future plans.
Where to get help and advice:
- Your family doctor/GP, as they will have a record of your health history and will be able to advise you on the prognosis of your medical conditions and future treatment considerations
- My Aged Care
- The Advance Care Planning Advisory Service: 1300 208 582 or advancecareplanning.org.au
- Your independent financial advisor or planner
You can read about what support is available for people applying to enter an aged care facility here.