Why we need to talk about aged care now

Navigating the maze of aged care options while coming to terms with the physical and cognitive decline of elderly parents is not easy, which is why more Australians are seeking professional help.  Renay Richardson writes.

The daunting process of placing a much-loved parent into aged care stirs a range of emotions.

According to Aged Care Steps, these emotions can be summed up as the 3Gs: Grief, Guilt and Greed.

Feelings of grief aren’t reserved only for people who have buried a loved one. Anyone who has lost something of value to them, be that a relationship, property or a sense of control, can experience grief too.

For an older person moving into residential aged care or children arranging for a parent to enter a facility, it signifies the end of a chapter in their life. Parents may grieve the loss of their independence while children may grieve the deterioration of a parental relationship, due to declining health.

Children often also feel guilty for placing a parent into residential care, even if it is the best thing for them. They may feel that they’re letting that parent down by not nurturing and caring for them at home.

They may also feel guilty for feeling relieved and moving on with their lives.

Then there’s greed.

As the baby boomers get older, some adult children will seek to take control of their parent’s assets, potentially in exchange for care. This usually occurs after the death of a spouse or some sort of health crisis, leaving older people extremely vulnerable to elder abuse.

According to Teresa Somes, associate lecturer at Macquarie University, elderly people are at high risk of homelessness1, due to a combination of factors including the rising cost and quality of aged care; the breakdown of family care arrangements; and pure and simple greed.

It’s a confronting but important topic.

Many families hope that an elderly parent will broach the subject of aged care, upon self-realisation that their health is declining.

In my experience, the initial conversation is usually the easy part.

Determining the right aged care solution is much more complicated because there are so many considerations including the individual’s wishes, the family’s wishes, the availability and timing of entering aged care, and of course fees and costs.

There’s nothing quite like discussions about money to make the wheels fall off even the most sensible, well thought-out plans.

Increasingly, families are turning to professional advisers to help them understand their financial position and the myriad of aged care options and strategies.

What’s ultimately right will depend on a family’s specific goals and priorities.

For example, some people want a solution that will put them in the best financial position. Others want to retain the family home at all costs. A fortunate few only need to consider the well-being of a parent because money is not a problem.

Seeking advice from an impartial third party can provide clarity, certainty and comfort. It may not eliminate feelings of grief, guilt or greed but it can help manage the rollercoaster of emotions.

In order to secure the best outcome for all parties, families need to start planning for aged care early and seek professional advice. The process should be inclusive and collaborative.

A financial adviser can help families:

  • Plan early for aged care and estate planning needs;
  • Explore the different aged care options such retirement villages, residential aged care facilities and in-home care;
  • Understand the various fees, costs and contractual terms, and how they will impact a person’s financial position;  
  • Review options for funding care including maximising any Centrelink and social security entitlements;
  • Structure finances to achieve the best tax outcome; and
  • Facilitate difficult discussions and help all parties make informed decisions.

Aged care may not be an issue that people want to think about yet it’s usually a concern that’s in the back of their minds.

Those thoughts will only become more pronounced as the baby boomers and their parents get older.

According to McCrindle Research, Australians aged 65 years or over currently represent around 15% of the country’s population (or 3.8 million people) and that figure is expected to explode in the next five years.

  1. https://www.smh.com.au/money/super-and-retirement/elderly-people-at-risk-of-homelessness-when-granny-flat-agreements-fail-20200221-p5439t.html
  2. https://2qean3b1jjd1s87812ool5ji-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/The-Aged-Care-Puzzle-2017.pdf