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Retirement,Social Security & Centrelink

Aged Care – It Doesn’t have to be this hard – Really!

28 Apr , 2015  

Melinda Houghton
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Melinda Houghton

Financial Planner at Houghton Strategic
Melinda provides strategies to assist real people achieve personal goals by working to identify risks, needs and most importantly opportunities to maximise your financial position.
Melinda Houghton
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There is plenty of information out there about Aged Care – probably too much actually. However how do you get the whole process right?

I have recently been involved in trying to help someone with their parents who are heading up to 90, and should have been considering Aged Care for some time. It has been a very stressful, painful process because it has now become an emergency, and it’s still not sorted out yet after a few weeks. So please find below some examples of what NOT to do if you have someone you are responsible for who is starting to struggle living at home.

DON’T assume aged care is a last option…

There are many levels of assistance available for people getting older and starting to struggle. What you don’t do is let the situation go on until it becomes an urgent last minute rush. Once you know that there might be a need for assistance in the next year or so, start discussing and researching this immediately and getting everyone involved used to the idea.

If you can’t care for your elderlies or yourself for any reason, there are home assistance options or retirement village options that can delay or negate the need for Aged Care as support is available. If it will be needed – you should start researching facilities, finding the one you like best, and getting on waiting lists.

Aged Care facilities can vary enormously. There are good and bad, different focuses (e.g. based on religious, language or cultural needs or ethnicity) and some places have special units for dementia patients. Planning ahead means you could secure one that is like a five star hotel, with caring staff and great facilities, activities, and support for your elderlies and for the family. They are not all terrible and scary, and once people get to a point they are struggling alone, they can drastically improve their quality of life.

Remember the staff at these facilities are trained professionals in what they do. They have volunteered to care as their profession, and know how to do it in the safest and most professional manner, taking away embarrassment and making care a normal process.

You wouldn’t put your kids into the last choice option for child-care or school at the last minute when you realize it is time for enrolment. Why would you think it is ok to do this for Aged Care for your parents or grandparents?

Most facilities also have respite available, which your elderlies can use as a “try before you buy” option. If you care for someone, respite is a great way for you to go away or have a break and know they are safe. Or if one elderly is in hospital and their partner can’t stay home alone, respite is the option. But it also gives them a chance to see what it is like, whilst knowing it is temporary, and not the only choice out there.

There is a common theme when people in the current Aged Care demographic hear someone they love suggesting researching Aged Care.

It goes kind of like this…….

“Don’t you even think about that, if you love me don’t do that to me”

“I want to die in my own house….not in a place like that”

“You’re not sending me to one of those horrible places, I’d rather die first”

“I will never forgive you if you try to send me there”

However, they are thinking about the old-school facilities, not what is available now. And they are also struggling to acknowledge they are aging, and don’t want to admit they are not coping. But when you love someone is it really fair to let them struggle at home, and likely be living in dangerous territory?

It might be the short-term easy option for you – to delay because it is hard, and hope that everything will be ok. But it doesn’t solve the problem, keep them safe or help them enjoy their later years.

Is it fair to let them sit with the television as their main company?
Is it fair to let the highlight of their week become their trip to the bank and the doctor?
Is it fair to let their diet become limited, and their health deteriorate?
Is it fair to let them become confused and not remember things, like daily activities, medications and food ?
Is it a good idea to have them living in dusty, unhygienic conditions because they can’t see the dust anymore?
Is it ok that they can fall over and not be able to get up, or have a stroke or heart attack and no-one knows?
What if they turn the stove on and forget? Is it fair to let the house burn down?
Is it fair to let them keep driving when they could kill themselves and someone else?

Just because it’s a hard conversation to have? And because they don’t want to admit they are getting older and struggling? And maybe you don’t want to admit they aren’t still the strong, capable people that brought you up?

The family has a responsibility to have those hard conversations and help make some tough decisions. The circle of life means that they cared for you, and if you are lucky enough for them to get old, you then have to care for them.

In the situation I am close to, the husband had a fall and heart-attack and had to go to hospital. His wife has dementia and couldn’t stay home alone. So initially a family member stayed over (but this is not always possible). When he was able to go home, he had another fall, and the poor wife was too confused to even phone for an ambulance. She was in hysterical tears but couldn’t function enough to cope.

Was it fair for her family to put her back into this position? Was it safe for either of them? Was it the ‘kind’ thing to do, just because the husband wanted to stay at home?

When she finally managed to call her son, the husband was again admitted to hospital. Only this time she was placed into respite care at an Aged Care facility.

The difference for her was amazing. She had comfort, cleanliness, food, company, and activities. She got to meet new people, and was relaxed and SAFE, instead of feeling like a burden and stressed and confused.

Remember, she didn’t want to go…..but now she is happy to stay.

Now the family needs to desperately find a permanent place where they can both go, but in a hurry. They need to consult the family Financial Planner for advice, and rush around checking options urgently. They may be separated into respite facilities short-term because of the lack of planning, and may not have all the choices available due to the urgency of the situation.

Also important is the financial cost of the whole experience. With careful and timely planning; their assets (including the family home) could be structured in a way to reduce the up-front and ongoing costs. Good advice on these options needs to be provided by professionals, and can take a little time.

Wouldn’t it have been better for this family to have acknowledged the inevitable, and made the call to begin this process earlier? When they had time to check things out properly, get advice, and not be in such an urgent situation to keep their much loved elderlies safe?

Simple answer…..Yes, it would.

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