Living independently: a look at in-home care options
Are you, or is someone you know, in need of aged care services but not quite ready to move into residential care? With a range of government programs and technological solutions available, many retirees are now able to get the support they need in the comfort of their own home.
The decision to move into an aged care facility – whether for yourself, your partner or a relative – can be an emotionally charged one. Not only is it a major life change; it often means selling the family home as well. Many seniors would prefer to live independently for as long as possible, and there are a growing number of options available to support this choice – from government-funded services to technological solutions. Here’s how to make the most of what’s on offer, so you or your loved one can enjoy top-notch care at home.
A financial helping hand
As part of the 2018 Federal Budget, the government announced an increase in home care funding to help more seniors stay in their homes for longer. There are currently two programs available:
The Commonwealth Home Support Program provides entry-level help around the house with things like food preparation, housework, shopping and transport. This can either be on an ongoing basis or for a short-term period during an illness or after a hospital stay.
The Home Care Packages Program offers support for seniors with more complex needs. This may include help with personal care and dressing, assistance to access outside support services and clinical care such as nursing, health and physiotherapy. The program is structured into four levels ranging from basic to high-level care. Before you can get home care assistance, a member of your local Aged Care Assessment Team, a team of medical and allied health professionals, will meet with you to assess your needs. If they confirm that you’re eligible for care, they’ll make a recommendation based on your individual requirements. Next, you can begin researching home care providers in your local area to find one that’s suitable for you. When you’ve chosen a provider, you enter into a Home Care Agreement with them. You can find out more about the government’s home care services on the Ageing and Aged Care website.
Calculating the costs
Although the government subsidises home care service fees, you’re also expected to pay some of the costs yourself. The amount you need to contribute will depend on your income and the type and level of care you need. For the Home Care Packages Program, you’ll have to complete an income assessment for the Department of Human Services. However, this might not be needed if you’re already receiving means-tested benefits such as the Age Pension. Home care costs can vary greatly from one provider to another, so it’s a good idea to do your research first. Generally speaking, there are three types of fees:
A basic daily fee: calculated as 17.5% of the Age Pension single person rate – currently $10.32 a day or $144.48 a fortnight.
An income-tested care fee: determined by the Department of Human Services, – up to a maximum of $14.81 per day if you are single and your income is less than $51,667.20, or $29.63 per day if it’s more.
Additional fees: for extra services not covered by your home care package. You can use the online Home Care Fee Estimator tool to calculate how much you’ll be charged. Your financial adviser can also help you work out your home care budget and find an affordable option.
Adapting your home
As well as receiving in-home support, there are many ways to make your home itself more senior-friendly. The older you get, the more susceptible you are to trips and falls, so it’s a good idea to remove any potential hazards like loose rugs and floor-based ornaments. If your home has stairs, you might consider adding railings or grips to help you get up and down as you become less mobile. If you need to use a wheelchair or walker, you might be able to install ramps and widen doorways to make it easier to get around. The bathroom is often a tricky area to navigate, so it’s essential to make sure you can get in and out of the shower or bath safely. You can attach non-slip strips and grab bars to the bathtub to provide some extra stability, or you might actually prefer to replace the bath with a walk-in shower to reduce the risk of falling. Finally, you’ll want to put everything you need in your home within reach, especially in the kitchen if there are high cabinets. If you have arthritis or pain in your joints, you could even replace round doorknobs with handles that are easier to open.
Innovation at your fingertips
To complement traditional care services, tech advances and new treatment options are emerging as game-changers for in-home care. There are all sorts of apps available for checking your blood pressure, setting medication reminders and booking doctor’s appointments. And if you find reading and writing a challenge, you can dictate emails to a virtual assistant, use an online magnifying glass or enlarge the interface on your phone. The internet is also wonderful at creating communities; you can use it to connect to local support services so you can let them know straight away when you need help.
Talk to your adviser
If you’re weighing up your home care options for yourself or an elderly relative, it’s worth speaking to your financial adviser. They can help you assess your options, entitlements and associated costs – as well as assisting with your estate planning needs. That way, you can be sure that your aged care strategy is the right match for your financial situation and family circumstances.