When you're exploring aged care options for a loved one, the process can seem overwhelming. Here's how to make it a bit easier.
Choosing when to place an elderly relative into a retirement home may be one of the toughest decisions you have to make. And while you want your loved one to be as comfortable as possible in their final years, it’s also important to be financially prepared. With so many choices available and so many decisions to make, it helps to break down the process into a series of steps. And remember, when the time comes to begin your own aged care journey, you’ll want to be ready – so the sooner you start planning, the better.
Step 1. Finding the right place
The first step is to have your loved one’s needs assessed to determine the right level of care – from semi-independent living to round-the-clock nursing. Free assessments are conducted by community- or hospital-based Aged Care Assessment Teams. You should also consider any additional services your relative might need in the future, so they won’t have to move again if their health declines. If you can, visit different retirement facilities together to find an environment your loved one feels comfortable in. Be sure to investigate the social activities and meal options on offer, to ensure they’ll enjoy a happy and enriched life there.
Step 2. Calculating the costs
Although the federal government subsidises aged care costs, there are still various expenses that need be covered. For residential aged care, these include: • Accommodation fees. Prices are set by the facility but may also depend on your relative’s income and assets. Fees can be paid either as a lump sum or in regular instalments. • Basic daily care fee. This covers daily living costs and is fixed at 85% of the maximum single Age Pension – currently $50.66 per day. • Means-tested fee. This may be charged on top of your relative’s daily care fees, and is based on their assets and income. It’s currently capped at $27,232.33 a year. • Extra service fees. Additional fees may be charged for a more comfortable standard of accommodation, or special services like hairdressing or pay TV. A financial adviser can help you calculate all these costs so you know exactly what to expect.
Step 3. Managing the paperwork
Because the fee amounts vary, you’ll need to lodge a Request for a combined assets and income assessment form with the Department of Human Services. This helps determine how much of a government subsidy your relative will receive towards the aged care costs. Next, you can start applying directly to aged care facilities to find a suitable placement for your relative. A facility will contact you as soon as a slot becomes available, and they may also require you to enter into a Resident Agreement and Accommodation Agreement.
Step 4. What to do with the family home
Moving into aged care accommodation isn’t cheap, and many people who go into care need to sell their family home to cover the costs. This process can take many months, so you might also have to sort out a loan to manage the initial expenses while the property is on the market. An alternative may be to rent out the property and use the rental income to help cover your aged care fees. Your relative’s choice of whether to sell, or keep and rent out their former family home can have significant consequences for the aged care fees they pay, as well as any social security entitlements they receive, so speak to a financial adviser about the best option before taking any action