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Articles by Whenua Oner

5 Costly Aged Care Mistakes To Avoid

Australia's aged care system is incredibly complex, and making the wrong decisions can have a high cost, both financially and emotionally. Being aware of the common traps to avoid can help your family save time, money and stress.

Mistake 1: Making aged care decisions in a crisis

Sadly, many aged care decisions are made in hospital hallways and car parks after some catastrophe. This results in making rushed decisions that can end up seeing your loved one ripped off and short-changed by the system.

That’s why it’s so crucial to get the whole family involved as early as possible to make informed decisions that get the best outcomes for your loved ones.

We recommend that the best time to start these meaningful conversations is about the same time decisions are being made about retirement. This provides an opportunity to structure assets correctly to give you maximum support for aged care needs down the track. It is also a good time to get an Advanced Care Plan/Directive completed.

The next key time to open up the conversation is when care needs start to change, or maybe there have been some minor health events, a fall, a change or worsening of a medical condition.

The great thing about having a proactive conversation at this point is that the family can understand their expected roles and prioritise what is important.

Mistake 2: Getting the wrong assessment from the ‘My Aged Care’ call

When it comes to accessing government-funded aged care services, you must first contact My Aged Care to be assessed.

Either a RAS (Regional Assessment Service) or ACAT (Aged Care Assessment Team) will be triggered based on the information provided in the My Aged Care call. Getting the wrong assessment can lead to lengthy delays in getting the right care.

When it comes to the My Aged Care call, we see a common problem that can create significant issues down the track. Often when asked how one is going at home, the common response is to downplay any trouble; “I’m doing well”, “ I can do x,y and z”, even if that is not necessarily true.

This will generally mean that a RAS will be triggered, and that means your loved one won’t get access to the needed home care package services.

Mistake 3: Missing out on in-home aged care services

There is a diverse range of services available to keep people at home longer. However, it is not a particularly equitable system, and what is available will depend to an extent on where you live and what resources you have.

Services to keep people at home longer include:

Government-funded aged care services:

  • Home Care Packages (HCPs)

  • Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP).

  • Short Term Restorative Care (STRC)

  • Transition Care programs

State-based health services

These services are usually accessed by a referral from a doctor or following a hospital admission:

  • Hospital in the home

  • Community nursing

  • Wound care services

Private services

There is an increasing number of platforms now available to connect carers directly with those requiring care and ensures all the compliance and safety checks are completed, so you have confidence that you are not letting random people into your parents’ home.

Mistake 4: Entering a granny flat arrangement without a formal agreement

It’s becoming increasingly common for older Australians to enter into arrangements to live with their family, helping defer entry to residential aged care for as long as possible.

Granny flats can include more than the typically known and traditional separate building on a piece of land.

Special rules apply for granny flats It can affect eligibility or rate of payment for the Age Pension. It is recommended that a formal written agreement is drawn up that clearly sets out the terms of the granny flat interest.

Mistake 5: Selling the family home without seeking advice

When moving into a residential aged care facility, assets and income will be assessed to determine the fees. The outcome of this assessment will be whether someone is a fully-supported or partially-supported resident or a full market price payer.

Fully supported residents are not expected to pay for their room, as the Federal Government covers this cost on their behalf. Partially supported residents or a full market price paying residents are expected to pay for their room or make a contribution towards it. 

Your parent or loved one does not have to sell their home to pay for residential aged care. The choice is up to them.

Sometimes, the decision is purely financial, such as renting out the home for income or holding onto the home as a legacy to leave to the family. There are also emotional factors, such as leaving the long-time family home, which may not be that easy to do.

The choice about the family home may impact the cost of care and the amount and eligibility for the age pension.

It is essential to make sure, whatever the decision, that there is enough cash flow to pay aged care fees and meet any other living expenses.

Seeking independent guidance on what options are available to assist in making a good decision can be beneficial from a time, money-saving and stress level perspective.

When it comes to aged care, preparation is the key to avoid being short-changed by the system. Empower yourself with as much information as possible to get the care your parents are entitled to.

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Aged care services available to help your parents at home

Let's talk about in home care services available for seniors. The vast majority of people want to stay living in their own home for as long as possible. The sad reality is that many cannot stay in their homes as long as they would like because something happens, like a bad fall with serious injury that often removes this option.

The thing about falls, is that they often occur because of silly things that may have been prevented if there was some extra in home services in place.

This seems easy to fix, right, look for the in home aged care service you want and get it in place. Going to www.myagedcare.com.au is a great place to start the process. The government provides us with a lot of information there. However, there are a few things that you should know, that are not clear in the process, and it is this that I want to unpack today.

We get it, you are busy. You have your own family, a job, balancing a crazy covid world and you are trying to support your elderly parents as well. You want to get the best outcome for them and support them to get aged care services at home.

If you want government subsidised aged care services at home, you need to register with My Aged Care. They will register your parent and place the referral for assessment. Depending on what you say to the representative you will get either a Regional Assessment Service (RAS) or an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). You are not necessarily going to know which one initially. The former gives access to the lower level in home care services that are available eg. The Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) and other community based services such as transport. The latter gives access to the Home Care Packages (HCPs), amongst other things, which is what most tend to think about when thinking about in home aged care services for seniors.

Why is this relevant?

It becomes really pertinent when we start thinking about the timeline between getting your assessment completed and getting the service in place. HCPs have a waiting list, sometimes 12 months or more. The assessors can only work with the details provided at the time of assessment. So often what happens is, assuming you get the right level of assessment in the first place, the service takes months to get and you need to do something to manage the gap.

This is when we typically see families get really stressed trying to provide the support themselves.

So what can you do?

Planning is really helpful, ideally before a crisis, we like to work with families to create their own tailored Staying at Home Plan. To do this, be really clear on the resources you have available; we include financial, time, physical and emotional resources. Anything is possible with enough resources; it can go pear-shaped if you are not upfront about the sustainability of these resources. Remember that sometimes it is a small thing that makes the biggest differences to quality of life and they may not be the obvious things.

We encourage you to check out page 8 of our ebook to find out some more detail about the aged care home services that might be available in your community.

If you have a question or want to explore your own situation, please go to our home page and schedule a call or send us an email.

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