Why aged care begins at 50
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 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, and 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 enable them to remain at home.
Waiting lists for these packages already have stretched beyond a year, and Mr Boden said people might be able to get a lower level 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 was unacceptable and could result in higher costs to the government if more seniors went into nursing homes.
"While the current wait list raises the importance of planning, people can only enter the wait list once they have been assessed as requiring care," he said.
People should understand that timing gaps for home care and residential care might need to be managed by extra help from family, friend and community groups, Mr Rooney said.
He said the myagedcare.gov.au portal was a good support for aged care planning. The website has plenty of educational information and online tools to find services.
Advantage One Financial Services managing director Andrew Venning said early advice could lead to better structured assets and 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".
QUESTIONS TO ASK EARLY
• What financial resources will I have?
• How much support can I expect from family?
• What care options are available and can I afford them?
• What government subsidies will I be eligible for?