What the aged care sector can learn from COVID-19

smiling older couple

COVID-19 has exposed flaws in the aged care sector. Together, we can craft a solution.

 

The challenge of COVID-19 has made its way into all industries, and the aged care sector is no different. The impacts of the virus have added a new layer to existing issues that must be addressed within our industry, including numbers of staff, the training process and the findings of the Royal Commission into aged care. What this means is that the industry needs to work harder to prepare for future crises, as well as to establish a unified voice, mission and understanding to present a singular front to the public to rebuild confidence within the sector.

While the Royal Commission’s findings in their interim report have been scathing, the industry should not see this as an attack – rather, it should be viewed as an encouragement to do things differently and better. In this report, the Commission calls for a fundamental overhaul of regulation and funding of Australian aged care, and in the age of COVID-19 this has never been more important.

An excellent recent conversation between Patricia Sparrow and Michelle Grattan highlighted some of the existing issues in the sector, which have been exacerbated by COVID-19. Among these issues was the nebulous definition of aged care, including the conflation with nursing homes – she suggests that one important move going forward would be to determine what services aged care should provide and, from there, determine how funding should work on a community basis in order for the sector to delivered the expected level of care. Of course, part of this would be staff reform and an emphasis on appropriate training.

The industry also needs to be better at communicating appropriate, factual information, using terminology that is accessible to people outside of the sector. There is a lack of understanding around the difference between public and private care – to improve the public perception of the sector, we need to find a way to present unified information so that there can be no misunderstandings.

The schism between public and private facilities needs to be addressed, as there are ongoing issues between these spheres that often come down to a lack of communication – in an ideal world, these systems can work together to maximise the resources that we have access to.

COVID-19 has shone a light on the need for aged care to develop stricter protocols around infection control.  COVID-19 is highly infectious, and we have seen the devastating consequences when it is exposed in aged care facilities.. We must develop legislation and protocols around this matter to prevent future outbreaks to the extent that we have seen recently. Appropriate legislation around staffing levels and training will ensure they have the knowledge, support and equipment required to prevent future outbreaks to the extent that we have seen recently.

Aged care staff are doing their very best.   The aged care sector is made up of passionate people who want to provide the best care possible for some of the most vulnerable members of our community. It is our responsibility to ensure that the industry is properly governed and funded to ensure that happens.

Paying more for aged care might save you in the long run

I am a passionate believer that aged care is about choice. Ageing is a natural part of life and we hope that we will all see our parents reach their senior years.

However, with the ageing process comes the need for aged care. For many of us, a role reversal happens where we begin to give our elderly parents the care they often gave us while we grew up. This is often an emotionally overwhelming time but then you need to dive into what is often an unfamiliar world with plenty of jargon – RADs, DAPs, Level 1 home care package (HCP), additional service fees etc.

In my previous columns, I have broken down what to expect when it comes to aged care fees and what you can reasonably be expected to pay. I have also written about how to negotiate thousands of dollars off aged care fees, as aged care is a market and like any market – there is often room for negotiation.

However, it may not always pay to negotiate aged care fees. Aged care needs to be about your individual circumstances and what options suit you and your family best. Although there are plenty of times when it’s better to negotiate, it’s important to look at options where paying a higher amount upfront might be better for your loved one than paying a smaller, daily fee.

What does it mean to pay a higher amount?

To be clear, there are aged care fees that are set by the government and cannot be changed. This includes fees such as the basic daily fee and the means tested care fee.

It’s also illegal for you to pay more money for a specific aged care bed (this is known as a Refundable Accommodation Deposit, or RAD) or for an aged care home to ask you to pay above these fees to guarantee your place.

 The RAD is the cost of an aged care bed and is what looks like the most eye-watering sum at first – often sitting in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range. As an alternative, this can be paid as a Daily Accommodation Payment (DAP) instead. This is essentially the interest on the RAD calculated as a daily payment, which may be more affordable than a lump sum. However, I’ve had clients who have chosen to pay this large sum rather than its smaller alternative.

I once had a client Brenda* who had chosen an aged care home with a RAD of $775,000. Brenda could have paid in theory a lot less with the DAP, however once all of her assets were taken into consideration, we found it was better for her to offer to pay the full RAD in exchange for lower additional service fees.

 Additional service fees cover what I call ‘luxury’ items that are on top of your care needs. These may include extra meal choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Foxtel in your room etc., with each facility offering a different range of additional services. Brenda offered to pay the full RAD in exchange for a reduction in her additional service fees from $60 a day to $10 a day. That’s a savings of about $18,250 a year and she still got to enjoy all the benefits that came with the additional service fees.

From the aged care home’s point of view, it was worth agreeing to reduce the additional service fee when they were going to receive the full cost for her place straight away. So, in Brenda’s case, she was a lot happier and better off with more of her money in the RAD and more of her daily money in her pocket.

Centrelink rules may mean there’s more sense in paying more

One important thing to note is that you are not required to disclose your income and assets to an aged care facility. This was a requirement in the past but is not the case now. However, to ensure you are charged the appropriate fees, it is recommended that you disclose this information to Centrelink as those assets and income may have an impact on your pension.

For example, if you own your home and have a small amount of money outside of it, you could be considered a full pensioner. Let’s say your home is worth $800,000 and you decide to sell it to partially pay for aged care costs. If you pay an aged care facility $400,000 for the RAD and then you have $400,000 in the bank once you sell your house, Centrelink will consider this to be an asset and it may subsequently affect your pension entitlements.

However, if you find an aged care home that is charging you $775,000 for a RAD – and you choose to pay that instead, that lump sum payment will be exempt for pension purposes. Centrelink will assess the remaining assets and as a result, you may keep your pension. In terms of day-to-day living, you may very well prefer to keep your pension, fully pay for your aged care bed and have a little bit of cash in the bank.

Please note – the above scenarios are only general and this is where I recommend engaging a financial planner to crunch the numbers correctly for you, as well as working with an aged care consultant to present you all the options in the market. At this time in life the correct professional advice is essential.

Overall, planning aged care is about engaging the right professional services to be your advocates and to ensure you have thought through every available option and made the best choice for you and your loved one. Once we understand we have more choices than we think, this time of life becomes a lot easier for everyone.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy

PLEASE NOTE: This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services advice.

This article by My Care Path CEO Dana Sawyer originally published on Starts at 60.

An insider’s advice on how to negotiate thousands off aged care fees

An insider’s advice on how to negotiate thousands off aged care fees

If you are in the process of helping a family member transition from their own home to residential aged care, it can often be daunting for both you and your loved one. It seems like overnight you have to enter a whole new world, while trying to understand what aged care means for them financially, particularly when it comes to aged care fees.

The Australian government expects you to partially or fully contribute to the cost of your aged care – if you can afford it. I break down exactly what that means in this column but, essentially, if you have an income below $27,460 a year and assets worth less than $49,500 (including the family home*), the government will pay for your residential aged care.

If you are above this threshold, there will be an expectation that you contribute at least some of the cost towards your aged care needs.

However, it’s important to remember that there is often room to negotiate aged care fees and, as with any market-driven sector, it pays to shop around. In aged care, not all facilities will charge the same fees and depending on your situation, it may pay well to negotiate.

What aged care fees may be flexible?

There are a number of common care fees that you will come across when looking to access residential aged care, also known as an aged care home or nursing home. These are:

  • Refundable Accommodation Deposit (RAD) or Daily Accommodation Payment (DAP)
  • Basic Daily Fee
  • Means-Tested Care Fee
  • Additional Service Fee

For a full breakdown on what each of these fees mean read my previous column.

Out of the above fees, generally your basic daily fee and means-tested care fee are not negotiable because they are set by the government. You are also, for example, unable to pay more than the advertised RAD in exchange for a lower Additional Service Fee. But the RAD, DAP or Additional Service Fee can still have wriggle room.

How to negotiate on age care fees

Gladys came to me because she needed advice on helping her 84-year-old father find residential aged care. She had spoken with an aged care home in her area, which explained her father needed to pay a RAD of $300,000 for a bed.

Gladys believed there was no way they could afford the RAD, so in that situation the aged care facility was obligated to offer the DAP as an alternative. (Remember that if you want to pay for aged care through the DAP, the facility must accept your decision.)

This meant that Gladys’ father would only pay the interest on $300,000, currently capped at 4.91 per cent. But while Gladys initially felt happy with this, there was room for more negotiation.

While working with Gladys I found that there were two other aged care homes in her area, which were charging a RAD that was $50,000 less than that of the first home Gladys approached. So took this information to the original aged care home and were able negotiate the overall cost of the RAD down, which in turn reduced the DAP Gladys’ father had to pay.

There are other fees to consider as well, such as Additional Service Fees. I refer to these as ‘luxury fees’ as they are for items that add a bit of luxury, in that they may mean more meals to choose from at dinner time, Foxtel, a daily newspaper etc.

It’s important to note, though, that if an aged care home is charging an Additional Service Fee, there is an expectation that the resident is able to use those additional services. I had as a client a lady in her late 60s who was unfortunately in the late stages of dementia. When her family were going through the process of placing her in residential care, we were able to point out to the aged care home that the resident was unable to utilise the Additional Service Fee benefits that were offered, which eliminated that cost.

This ‘luxury’ fee can range from anywhere from $10 a day to $60-plus per day, so you can see where the benefits are of truly looking at all of your options. Even if you have to pay some Additional Service Fee, you may be in a position to pay a higher percentage of the RAD than initially planned, then negotiate the Additional Service Fee from there.

Aged care advice can pay for itself

Many of us cannot see what all of our choices are when we are working with an industry that is unknown to us and where we may need to make a decision in a short amount of time. It’s important when you are considering negotiating your aged care fees or simply want to see what your options are, that you get help from a professional if you can.

You may think a financial planner is the best point of call and while I do recommend engaging a financial planner when planning your aged care, an aged care consultant is a better advisor for negotiating residential aged care fees.

A financial planner is unlikely to understand the aged care market, what is standard for facilities to charge or what they are charging within the same area. An aged care consultant, on the other hand, is paid to represent you and will know what the facilities in your area are charging for an aged care bed.

When we don’t have to navigate the aged care process on our own, we often realise we have more options than we thought we did.

*Keep in mind that the family home is only exempt if a ‘protected person’ is living in the home, this is defined by Centrelink and typically refers to either a spouse, child or someone living on a support pension. However make sure to check with Centrelink that anyone living in your home qualifies under this definition.

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and for information purposes only. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It is not financial product advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any financial decision you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from an independent licensed financial services professional.

This article was originally published on Starts at 60. 

Celebrating Christmas in Aged Care

Christmas
can be a time of mixed emotions for many of us. While there are times of joy,
there can also be times of overwhelm and stress – particularly if you are
celebrating Christmas with a loved one in aged care.

If
this is your first Christmas with a loved one living in care, whether it’s your
mum, dad or partner then it will be a time to consider how you cope with the
various emotions that are likely to come up, which could be a mixture of
sadness, guilt or even anger. It’s important to know that while this Christmas
will be different, it can still be a time of festivity and celebration.

Our
CEO and aged care expert Dana Sawyer has put together her advice for
celebrating Christmas in aged care.

Accepting change during the
holidays

If
this is your first Christmas with a loved one in aged care, it’s a time of
great change and that can resurface emotions regarding guilt and sadness. I
have previously written about why for most of us, there’s no reason to feel
guilty about placing a loved one in aged care
, as the vast majority
of families make this decision because their parent is genuinely happier and
safer there than at home.

So
make sure to remind yourself that you know you made the best decision for your
mum or dad. This may be the first Christmas they will not be in their own home,
but they are likely to be a lot happier than they were, with the additional
social interaction, nutritious meals and nursing care ensuring they are being
looked after.

Most
aged care homes also celebrate Christmas with festive decorations, a special Christmas
menu and special activities or Christmas church services. Ask the aged care
home manager what is planned for the holiday season. If your family doesn’t
celebrate Christmas but other cultural holidays common at this time i.e.
Chanukah, then ask about celebration options for these holidays.

Take mum/dad home for
Christmas

An
aged care home is just that – a home. Similar to when you are at home, you are
free to come and go. Aged care homes in Australia allow for 52 days of social
leave per year for residents (this is capped due to homes only wanting to
provide rooms to people who genuinely need the 24/7 nursing care aged care
homes provide).

Therefore
why not plan to have mum or dad home for a few days at Christmas if this is an
option? You will need to let the aged care staff know about your plans so they
don’t worry about the whereabouts of your loved one.

However
make sure to take daily care needs into consideration, are you able to make
sure dad takes his medication, help feed or clothe if necessary? Consider all
the small daily tasks an aged care nurse does for your loved one as part of
your holiday planning.

If
you’re starting to realise that you won’t be able to provide the necessary
care, speak to the aged care staff about spending Christmas in the aged care
home. Perhaps you can enjoy the Christmas feast with all the residents, bring
some of your own Christmas treats to enjoy in the home’s lounge or exchange
gifts in mum’s aged care bedroom.

Decorate their room with
Christmas decorations

You
can also add festive cheer by decorating your loved one’s aged care bedroom.
Perhaps a Christmas wreath on the door, some tinsel or a small tree depending
on what is suitable and safe. Christmas music is also a great option, if you
can arrange a small stereo or even vinyl record player. Look for records of
Christmas classics like Billy Holiday and Frank Sinatra – tunes your parents
would like have grown up with. Music creates a calming, peaceful atmosphere and
for those with cognitive decline, music from their youth can be a powerful
method of relaxation.

Celebrating Christmas when
parents have cognitive decline

One
particular challenge is when your parent is experiencing cognitive decline,
particularly if they have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Even if you
want to bring your parent home, lots of new faces and noise can overwhelm them.
An option is to keep the Christmas festivities in the aged care home or create
a quiet space for your loved one. Dedicate a room that you can decorate with
Christmas decorations, but everyone knows this is the ‘quiet room’ and is where
grandpa or grandma can have some peace and quiet if needed.

Ageing
loved ones often presents its challenges and the holiday season is no
different. Just because this Christmas will be different from ones of the past,
doesn’t mean it will be any less festive and joyful. No matter what stage of
life we are in, having a merry Christmas is often a matter of perspective than
circumstance.

How real Australians cover aged care costs

How real Australians cover aged care costs

I remember Jan phoning me looking for help to finance the cost of placing her 86-year-old father in aged care. While she had found an aged care home her dad was happy to move into, she was overwhelmed by the home’s refundable accommodation deposit (RAD), which was more than $500,000.

“How on earth are we going to afford that without selling the family home?” she asked me through tears. While selling the home her father had lived in was an option, her family were too emotionally attached to the property to sell it yet. There was the little garden that had been there for more than 30 years, from when her parent’s first bought the house, and her sister was planning to move from Western Australia to live in it in the near future.

The good news was that once I explained to Jan what a RAD actually meant – note the key word ‘refundable’ – and we looked at the options available to them, they didn’t have to sell the family home at all.

How much an aged care bed costs

If you are moving your mum or dad into an aged care bed, then the facility will charge a RAD, which is often in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, there is no need to be alarmed by what initially looks like an eye-watering sum.

The RAD is meant to cover the cost of caring for a resident in an aged care facility but if the resident leaves the facility or passes away while living there, the RAD is returned to them or their estate, minus the portion of the lump sum that was required to pay for their accommodation over whatever period they stayed in the facility.

While you can choose to pay the RAD in full up-front, you also have the option of paying it as a Daily Accommodation Payment (DAP). This means you will pay interest payments on the unpaid RAD at an interest rate set by the government, which is currently a maximum rate of 5.96 per cent. It’s important to note this interest rate is reviewed periodically so may be different at the time you or your loved one enters an aged care facility, but  the interest rate at the time of entry is then frozen for the duration of the residence.

The third option is to do a combination of both, which is what Jan and her family did. Once they looked at all of the assets, they chose to pay 50 per cent of the RAD by accessing their father’s superannuation and selling an investment property. They then paid the remaining 50 per cent as a DAP, so they could keep the family home they were so attached to.

Generally speaking, the government expects all Australians to pay for some or all of their own aged care accommodation, unless they can’t afford it. At present, if you have income below $27,460 a year and assets worth less than $49,500 (including the family home), the government will pay for your residential aged care accommodation. And if you have income above $69,430 or assets worth more than $169,079.20, you’ll need to pay for the full cost of your RAD. If your income or assets fall between these bands, the government will part-pay for your accommodation.

As for Jan, she knew that the family home would be sold one day, but the payment option chosen for her father meant that it would be when the family was ready and on their terms. And it’s important to remember that any lump sum you you put down in return for a bed in an aged care home is coming back to you, minus accommodation costs, and it is government-guaranteed (providing you have paid a RAD to an accredited aged care provider).

Aged care costs and the Age Pension

Mark and Bernadette, a couple in their 80s, both needed aged care but were worried how they were going to pay for it. They were both full Age Pensioners with less than $10,000 in the bank and their home was their only other asset.

They were convinced that their only option was to move into an aged care home that was not as nice as their current home. They were also worried they wouldn’t be able to live together when moving into aged care. But once we broke down the options, Mark and Bernadette found they could live together in a beautiful apartment inside an aged care facility.

This apartment had everything they needed – a bedroom they could stay in together, a kitchenette and a courtyard. It also gave them the independence they wanted but they could still keep their full pension and would have access to the nursing care Mark really needed. They ultimately did decide to sell their home, but realising there were aged care options they could finance that made them truly happy.

The family home and aged care

While no one has to sell their home to receive the aged care they need, it is something many families will need to consider eventually. But it’s not the first thing you should think about when it comes to helping your parents move into aged care.

It sounds counterintuitive but a better way to approach this situation is to first focus on finding the best aged care accommodation for your mum or dad, and then decide on the best way to fund what they want. Of course, if your mother or father have been living in their home for most of their life, it’s natural for them to not want to sell that home, even if it is financially the better option.

However, once they moves into aged care and settle in, it’s common for those emotional ties to lessen and for people to see the situation more clearly. Mum may realise that the family home is sitting there empty and no one’s using it, and she may feel selling the home is the best option for her and the family after all It’s about giving people the time to process a big life change rather than feeling you have to rush them or yourself into making a decision.

Key aged care costs

In Australia’s aged care system, there are three common fees on top of the RAD/DAP to be aware of:

  • Basic Daily Fee
  • Means-Tested Care Fee
  • Additional Services/Extra Service Fee.

Basic Daily Care Fee

A basic daily care fee helps to cover the costs of day-to-day living, including meals, cleaning, laundry, heating and cooling. The maximum basic daily fee for new residents entering aged care (including respite) is $51.21. This rate increases on March 20 and September 20 every year to coincide with changes to the Age Pension (the maximum daily care fee rate is always 85 per cent of the Age Pension paid to a single person.)

Means-Tested Care Fee

The means-tested care fee is an additional contribution towards the cost of aged care that you may need to pay, depending on an income and assets assessment by Centrelink. The maximum fee is currently $252.20 per day but there are caps that will apply to your means-tested care fee – both yearly and lifetime – so once you have reached these caps, you are not required to pay any further.

The means-tested care fee covers personal and clinical care such as bathing, grooming, specialised nursing services and assistance with medication. If you have been receiving home care services and paying income-tested care fees for this care prior to moving into residential aged care, these payments will contribute to your yearly and lifetime caps.

Additional Service Fee/Extra Service Fee

Some aged care providers will provide additional or extra services that are not covered in the basic daily fee or RAD payment, such as hairdressing, Foxtel, daily newspaper delivery, more meal choices and other concierge style services.

What’s the best way to prepare for aged care costs?

If your parents are reaching a stage of their life where they will need aged care, it’s better to have the conversation sooner rather than later. This often isn’t an easy conversation to have, so I have prepared this article about just that.

It’s also important to see a qualified financial planner, preferably with experience in aged care financial planning, before your start approaching aged care homes or services. Although there are choices for every circumstance, every situation is unique and should receive professional, individualised advice.

The more knowledge you have, the easier the process will be. Once people get true information – they have a real choice.

The names used in this story have been changed to protect privacy but every situation described is real. 

This article originally appeared on Starts at 60.

How do you cope when you’re overwhelmed by the aged care options?

How do you cope when you're overwhelmed by the aged care options?

The need for aged care services can happen quickly, especially if Mum or Dad has a fall and you’re suddenly navigating hospital visits, doctor appointments and social worker recommendations.

It’s normal to feel emotional and overwhelmed at times.

My Care Path CEO Dana Sawyer has helped more than 5000 families navigate the aged care process and has helped them with these very normal emotions.

In her latest blog post, Dana breaks down how you can cope when you’re overwhelmed by aged care.

Feeling Overwhelmed

In my work I come across many families who are feeling overwhelmed about placing mum or dad into an aged care home.

They may have started to research some aged care providers online, but soon realise they don’t understand how to begin the aged care process or understand the most common aged care terminology and acronyms.

Add to that mum or dad may currently be in hospital and the other legal considerations – finances, property and taxes – many people can have a sense of ‘analysis paralysis’ when trying to figure it all out.

I also see a lot of guilt from close family who need to make the decisions about their parents’ care needs, which only contributes to the overwhelm.

First – Build the right support network

You wouldn’t buy a house without a conveyancer looking over the sale contract because you’re not a property law expert. The same logic should apply when navigating aged care – you shouldn’t expect to do everything on your own, especially when the aged care system is new to you.

To manage overwhelm, build a support network of professionals that can help you understand all of your options.

Key professional services to consider engaging are:

An Aged Care Consultant

An aged care consultant will help you navigate and explain all of the aged care options. They will also often present a short list of suitable aged care homes, negotiate and clarify fees and charges for care, arrange tours of each home and help you with all the necessary paperwork and understanding the key terminology.

My Care Path offers a national network of aged care consultants and a membership network of aged care providers, who heavily subsidise the cost of a standard aged care consultation.

A typical aged care consultant service can cost between $2000-$3000, however working with a provider in the My Care Path network will reduce this cost to a $550 flat fee.

See our contact page to speak with a My Care Path aged are consultant.

A Financial Planner

A lot of families have financial questions when considering aged care. Whether they have to sell the family home is a common question.

The short answer is no it is your choice, however selling the family home my be the best financial decision depending on your individual circumstances and personal preferences.

The best option is to turn to a financial planner who understands the asset and income requirements of the Australian aged care system and how you can plan your finances to reflect what you really want.

You may also like to read this article about how much aged care really costs in Australia.

A Lawyer

Finding legal advice is also recommended, particularly with a lawyer who has experience with aged care legislation.

Aged care contracts are very heavily legislated however, a lawyer can read through an aged care home’s contract and guide you through the terms and conditions.

It is highly recommended that you engage a lawyer if you’re considering independent living or a retirement village, as these types of homes are governed by the private sector and are not subject to the same Federal Government regulations that aged care homes are.

Take care of your mental health

Commencing the aged care process with a parent or someone very close to you can be overwhelming and stressful.

It’s vital you take care of your own mental health and wellbeing while you’re navigating this process.

A counsellor or psychologist can help you manage any feelings of stress, anxiety or guilt that may arise. Your GP can provide you with a mental health care plan, which will entitle you to 10 subsidised psychology sessions per year.

A word on guilt….

Many clients I work with experience a lot of guilt when placing a loved one in aged care.

While this is normal, I know from experience that many people realise when it is needed residential aged care is the best option.

You may have a young family of your own to look after or your dad may be suffering from Alzheimer’s and needs professional care 24/7, which is something you simply cannot provide.

It’s important to remember there are a lot of benefits with aged care for your loved one. It’s one thing if your mum’s neighbour drops by daily and there’s a lot of family nearby, but if she doesn’t have those things she may start to feel very lonely, which can affect health and wellbeing.

Many families and individual benefit from the community living experience. Social isolation is one of the leading causes of health decline in our later years.

An aged care home can help negate those feelings of loneliness, which comes from more communal living.

What do I do if I suspect mum or dad is not being treated well in an aged care home?

What do I do if I suspect mum or dad is not being treated well in an aged care home?

What do you do if you suspect your loved one is not being treated well in an aged care home? Or if you need to make a complaint? What is the correct process and how do you ensure your voice will be heard?

In her latest blog post, aged care expert and My Care Path CEO Dana Sawyer breaks down what to do if you need to make a complaint about an aged care home, how to make sure your concerns are resolved and how to move your loved one out of a home if necessary.

When you place a loved one into aged care, likely to be either mum or dad, it’s normal to find yourself experiencing a role reversal of sorts. Suddenly you’re thinking and worrying about your parent as they likely worried about you when you were young.

If your mum or dad is currently living in an aged care home, you will have chosen the home you felt was best for them at the time.

However, what do you do if you suspect or worry that your parent isn’t being treated well?

It’s important to remember you’re not powerless and there are many options to help you work through any issues.

Step 1 – Trust Your Instincts

It’s natural to have feelings of guilt or doubt when you place your parent in aged care. However, it’s important to be able to differentiate between natural worrying about your mum or dad, or when there is a real cause for concern.

The key to finding out if there is likely a problem, is to monitor your parents’ behaviour. Has their behaviour and demeanour changed in any way? Do they appear to be happy and content in their new home?

Or have you noticed they have changed significantly, both mentally and physically? Do they seem distressed?

If there is a dramatic shift in behaviour, you should listen to your instinct that something is not right.

Step 2 – Ask to speak with the facility manager

Make a note of any concerns you have about Mum or Dad and ask for a meeting with the facility manager. Speak with him/her about your concerns and what you have noticed.

If you have a log book recording particularly incidences, such as notes on when you noticed a change in your parents’ demeanour, physical evidence of sores or bruises that concern you, then this will help the facility manager to develop an action plan to find out why this problem is occurring.

During this meeting, make sure to ask the facility manager what their complaint process is, as every aged care home may have a different process.

Step 3 – Develop a support network, including a GP and an aged care consultant

While you are working with the facility manager and the aged care home, build a support network around you including your parents’ GP and consider engaging an aged care consultant to advocate for you on your behalf.  

An aged care consultant can help work with the aged care home to deal with the complaint for you, as well as guide you through the process and provide an action plan on how to move your loved one out of the home if needed.

Step 4 – Develop an action plan to move to a different aged care home

It’s important to remember that aged care is voluntary and your loved one cannot be forced to stay in an aged care home that isn’t suitable for them or treats them poorly.  

There is no contract requiring a resident to stay in aged care.  

If you feel your complaint is severe enough that your loved one can no longer stay there and you’re not getting anywhere dealing with the home directly, start researching alternative aged care homes and providers.

Make sure to take into consideration your parents’ specific care needs and any practicalities such as location and current vacancies.

An aged care consultant can do this research for you and provide you with a short list of suitable alternative facilities.

Step 5 – Take your complaint further

If you feel you are not making progress by dealing directly with the aged care facility manager, then you can make a complaint to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission either online or by phoning 1800 951 822.

You do not need to have made a complaint with the facility manager first to contact the commission, and you can also make a complaint anonymously.

Need more help? Phone one of the My Care Path consultants on 1300 755 702 or email support@mycarepath.com.au who can help you navigate the aged care process.

What questions should I ask an aged care home?

What questions should I ask an aged care home?

Last month, we covered how to approach the aged care conversation with an ageing parent. If you are now at the stage where you need to choose an aged care home, you may be overwhelmed by how to choose the best home for your loved one.

In this blog post, aged care expert and My Care Path CEO Dana Sawyer, outlines the key questions to ask an aged care home before arranging an inspection.

Is there a Registered Nurse onsite 24/7?

While there is no legal staff to resident ratio requirement, a widely-accepted minimum standard is that a Registered Nurse should be available onsite 24/7.

When looking at potential aged care homes, this is one of the first questions you should ask, before arranging a tour.

You can also ask if residents are regularly looked after by the same staff members or if the provider uses agency staff.

Long term regular staff that consistently look after the same residents allows both the resident and the care worker to build a caring relationship and for the carer to observe changes in the resident’s condition.

What are the care options?

Aged care homes no longer differentiate between ‘high care’ and ‘low care’ needs for residents, however there are still a number of care options depending on the provider such as residential aged care permanent and respite care, home care and serviced apartments.

Ask the home what care options are available, you may find there is an aged care service available that you hadn’t previously considered and may even be more suitable for you.

What are the main fees and charges?

Before you begin calling aged care homes, it’s a good idea to get your head around the common acronyms for the most common fees and charges in aged care.

We have a blog post that breaks down the most important fees to understand, which can be read here.

You’ll want to understand terms such as Basic Daily Care Fee, RAD, DAP, Additional Service Fees and Care Contribution Fee before reaching out to facilities.

An aged care placement consultant can assist you to negotiate and compare all fees between all options you may be considering.

Once a preferred option has being chosen and before admission it may be beneficial to engage an aged care specialised financial planner. They can assist you to understand how best to structure your financial resources to the best possible outcome for your individual circumstance.

Do you cater for my mum/dad’s special needs?

Take into consideration if your parent has any special needs or lifestyle preferences, such as being from a culturally-diverse background or preferences for gardens. For example, if you’re loved one will struggle to communicate and understand English, ask the home if there are any staff members who speak your parents’ native language.

There are also a number of aged care homes that cater for certain ethnic groups, which prioritise hiring staff that speak specific languages and also have ongoing cultural events and celebrations.

Remember – aged care is voluntary

Aged care is a voluntary process, no one can be forced into aged care against their will. It’s also important to remember there is no lock in contracts forcing your loved one to remain in a facility for the rest of their lives.

Residents are able to have up to 53 days/ nights social leave every year. Also, independent residents can come and go as they please, provided that the nursing staff are aware when they are leaving and for how long of course.

Families are encouraged to take mum or dad out for the day, get them to spend a few nights a week at home if it’s an option and take regular outings.

If at any point you feel the aged care home is not suitable for your family member, you can move them into a different residence if you’re not happy.

Overwhelmed by all the options? Work with an experience aged care consultant

It can be easy to go down the rabbit hole of potential aged care homes, especially when you have an ageing loved one to care for at the same time.

It can help to look at a few options thorough a comprehensive aged care directory such as Aged Care Online, which can help you find homes based on your needs i.e. type of care, suburb etc.

You can also work with an experienced, aged care consultant who can do the hard work for you and present you with a short list of suitable aged care homes for your individual needs.

Consultants can also help you arrange aged care home tours, compare and negotiate RADs and sort through government and aged care provider paperwork.

My Care Path has a national team of aged care consultants, which you can contact on 1300 755 702 or fill in this contact form.

How to start the conversation about aged care with mum or dad

How to start the conversation about aged care with mum or dad

For those with ageing parents, it is common for the child to experience role reversal. Soon it is the daughter or son who is checking in on mum or dad, concerned for their welfare and starting difficult conversations about their parents’ care needs.

If you have an ageing parent, you will likely need to start the conversation about the aged care process at some point. Ageing is a natural part of life and it is best to start the conversation sooner, rather than later.

Aged care expert and My Care Path CEO Dana Sawyer, explains how to introduce the aged care conversation, ensure your loved one’s wishes are respected and when to turn to an expert for advice.

To begin the conversation, do NOT ask ‘Do you want to go into aged care?’ – the answer is likely going to be no.

It’s natural for people to have reservations about the ageing process and aged care system, particularly if they don’t understand it and haven’t experienced it before.

The truth is, no one wants to go into aged care – at least initially, and it’s important that we remember aged care is a voluntary system that no one can be forced into.

However, if you have concerns about the wellbeing of your ageing parent and know aged care may be needed now or in the near future, here are some better questions to ask:

  • How are you going at home Mum?
  • Are you coping with the gardening and cleaning Dad?
  • Are you feeling lonely since Mum passed away?
  • Do you have a lot of visitors? Or have a neighbour who pops in regularly?
  • Would you like some help with the housework?
  • What do you think of the idea of being a part of more of a tight-knit community?

These questions will help to naturally elicit how your parent is really coping at home and also may make them more receptive to the aged care help that is out there.

Find out what your options are sooner, rather than later

If you’re seeing signs your mum or dad may need aged care soon, find out what your options are before you need them.

The best way to find out your options, is to speak with an independent aged care consultant who can give you tailored, independent advice.

There will be a plethora of options depending on your parent’s physical health, cognitive health, social networks, finances, ethnic and cultural background and more.

You can also discuss with a consultant what happens in an emergency situation. Mum may be living independently now, but if she has a fall and is admitted into hospital – you may need to make a decision about aged care within a few days.

An aged care consultant can provide options for immediate care as well as potential future care.

Once you have all of the information, you may find it easier to begin that conversation with your parent.

Get in touch with a My Care Path aged care consultant here.

Remember – the ageing process is natural and you don’t need to feel guilty about that

Most of us will hopefully live to an old age, which means the majority of us will need aged care at some point in our lives. For the loved ones around an elderly person, it’s common to experience feelings of guilt about ‘placing mum or dad into aged care.’

The strange thing is we often talk about the health benefits of communal living, so why does that not apply to our elderly? Loneliness is one of the most chronic health issues the elderly face, with the Federal Government committing $10 million to combat the issue in the lead up to the election.

We must remember that aged care doesn’t need to be scary if we can demystify it and understand we all have a real choice in aged care.

Further Resources

Advanced Care Planning Australia is a not-for-profit organisation that provides resources about planning for future care needs.

The website has a section dedicated to family, friends and carers with useful information.

Aged Care Online is Australia’s most comprehensive online directory for aged care providers, including home care, residential, respite, retirement living and more. The directory makes it easy for you to get an understanding of the aged care services in your area.

My Care Path aged care consultants. We are an independent, aged care advisory service with more than 10 years’ experience in the industry. Our consultants are available nationwide.

What does the Federal Election mean for aged care?

Can families expect more investment into services that will help care for our elderly as they age?

Aged care expert and My Care Path consultant Dana Sawyer breaks down what the Coalition win will mean for people entering aged care.

The Federal Election delivered a surprising win for the Coalition, with the party comfortable forming a majority government.

While the government didn’t make sweeping reforms and big promises for the aged care sector in the lead up to the election, likely due to the ongoing Aged Care Royal Commission, there were a number of pre-election commitments made by the LNP.

The government is promising more measures to address senior loneliness, best practice research into aged care, help for seniors from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and additional aged care workers.

$10m to combat Senior Loneliness  

I often come across clients who feel very guilty about placing their mum or dad into aged care. While this is completely understandable, we sometimes forget that residential aged care can help combat senior loneliness.

If an elderly person is unable to get out and about easily, doesn’t have a strong neighbour network or has family living interstate – the health effects of loneliness can be profound.

The good news is that the government has committed an additional $10 million to expand the Community Visitors Scheme for aged care and home care residents.

The Community Visitors Scheme is a program where volunteers build a friendship with an elderly person, either in their own home or in an aged care facility.

$10m to help Seniors from Diverse Cultural Backgrounds

Australia’s multi-cultural landscape means many families speak a language other than English at home.

When an elderly person speaks English as a second language, or has limited English skills, they are less likely to access the aged care services they need due to language barriers.

The Coalition has committed to an additional $7.4 million for the Aged Care Systems Navigator program, which will include Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD)- specific program that will include:

  • A dedicated community and online information hub
  • Specially trained advisors offering one-on-one support to seniors and their families

More Aged Care Workers

The government has made it a priority for there to be 475,000 aged care workers in Australia by 2025.

The aged care sector is being given first priority in a program under the government’s Skills Service Organisations package to support future job growth.

The government will also commit $34 million to establish a research centre that examines new ways to deliver care for seniors, as well as best practice methods for training and educating aged care providers.

Overall, it’s promising to see more funding dedicated to help our culturally-diverse community as well as a commitment to combat the very serious problem of loneliness.

The aged care industry will continue to grow, so investing in more jobs for the sector and best-practice training and education should be a top priority.

The final result of the Aged Care Royal Commission will likely lead to more reforms in the aged care sector, which will hopefully lead to even better incomes for our elderly and their families.