Older Australians are putting unnecessary strain on their wellbeing and finances by putting off making decisions about aged care.
The choice of whether to opt for aged care and when is often a huge and emotional decision. While it’s a subject that many people prefer not to think about, there are many advantages to be gained by having these discussions with your family early on and planning this aspect of your future.
Given current figures, the probability of being admitted into aged care is 20% – so that’s one in five people potentially dealing with this issue. In fact, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare confirms that 4% of people over 65 who are admitted to hospital will be placed in residential care when they are discharged, rather than returning home. Clearly, this is not a decision that can be successfully avoided – although many people try.
While 83 is the average age of people entering aged care facilities, people should start thinking about and planning their future much earlier than this. However, many people dread this task, due to the negative connotations surrounding aged care and losing their independence. As well, a lot of misinformation and “horror stories” about elderly accommodation abound, and many people are fearful.
However, making a decision about aged care doesn’t need to be a negative experience. Often, having a plan in place makes people feel more in control and more at peace about what the future holds. Like any big decision in life, doing your research helps.
Delaying this decision can often significantly increase stress when a crisis or emergency happens, leaving many people forced to face the issue unprepared. All too frequently a sudden health incident or accident makes the decision about aged care or nursing services unavoidable, but you – or your children – have no plan in place. It is far harder to make good decisions when you’re unwell, stressed, anxious and under time pressure. Finding suitable aged care when you’re in a hurry is often extremely difficult –sometimes impossible – and can lead to less than ideal situations while you’re waiting for a place to become available. You will have much more control over what happens to you if you have a plan in place before a crisis occurs, rather than leaving those decisions to be made by others.
Choosing the right aged care solution is a complicated process, and there are many factors which need time and space to consider; such as the type of care needed, the availability of services, cost, and how your existing assets and income will affect the amount of government support you need – to name just a few. These are not decisions which can effectively be made in a hurry – so it makes a lot of sense to plan ahead and begin to have an understanding of how the system works, as well as having discussions with your family about your wants and needs.
Seek early advice from an aged-care advisor or financial planner to maximise your options. Talk to your family doctor or health professional about what might be best for you. And don’t let talking to your children and family about aged care become a taboo topic – make thoughtful and well-planned choices early so that your family understands what you want and can respect your wishes. All these steps will help to alleviate the emotional and financial stress that comes with aging.