Helping parents make the transition into supported living can be challenging, but forward planning and open communication can help everyone. Here are some things to consider together.
There are good reasons to start discussing aged care options with your parents well before they’re needed. Your parents’ circumstances could change quickly and assistance in or outside the family could be necessary years before you anticipated. The impact on your parents, you and your entire family can be dramatic – both emotionally and financially. Ensuring everyone understands what’s involved is vital.
Weighing up your parents’ options
We tend to equate aged care with residential or nursing home living, but there are other possibilities. You’ll need to discuss what mix of the following options your parents prefer.
1. Home care
Home care usually involves a government home care package that subsidises services such as cleaning and transport to appointments. There’s a huge range of approved providers, all pricing their services differently, so it pays to shop around and ask about other people’s experiences.
The My Aged Care website helps you understand the government assessment process before booking one.
It’s important to remember that just because someone has been assessed as needing a certain level of care, it won’t necessarily be immediately available. They may be put on a waiting list or offered a temporary solution. If you have the money, another option is to go private.
Your parents may also need some modifications to their home. You can pay for them independently or your parents may qualify for subsidised modifications to help with independent living. Handrails, non-slip flooring in the shower and easy-turn taps are typical recommended changes. Talk to your package provider about an assessment.
Technology is playing an increasingly significant role in keeping the elderly safe and independent. Devices can include digital bed and chair-fall guards, reminder devices and emergency alert pendants. Some are heavily subsidised and included in the government’s home care packages, while other, more sophisticated, devices may cost extra.
2. Retirement village or low-care facilities
These offer varying levels of independent living. Once in this environment, people can change the services they receive to match their rising level of need. People typically go from independent living to low-care assistance with everyday tasks such as home maintenance, cleaning, laundry and cooking.
Waiting lists for popular retirement villages and nursing homes can be very long. Again, do your research and if your parents want this option on the table, get their names added to the waiting list.
You’ll also need to look at the cost of ‘buying’ accommodation. Some can be as expensive as a city apartment. If funds are limited, your parents might have to sell their home to fund a place. They’ll also need to consider what happens if one needs a nursing home while the other wants to stay at home.
It’s important to discuss other factors such as location, too. Would it be preferable to move into facilities nearer adult family members or remain close to existing social networks? Understanding what’s important to your parents can help them decide which waiting lists to join.
3. High-care nursing homes
High-care nursing homes provide continuous nursing care for the frail. If one of your parents is already in a low-care facility or retirement village run by the same provider, the transition to full care can be quite smooth – providing a place is available. The existing refundable accommodation deposit or daily accommodation payment is usually transferred to the new accommodation.
Weighing up your options
Caring for ageing parents can be as emotionally and financially taxing for you as for them. It’s important to talk to siblings and children about the care that may be required from family members as well as other providers.
It may be important to define which sibling does what. For example, one may volunteer to drive your parents to appointments, another to manage the care home admin. You may also have to reorganise your work hours to accommodate care or visits. This could reduce your income and place a strain on your family life, so it’s just as important to address these topics, making clear your boundaries.
Making the transition to supported living is a major life event and your parents may require significant support to put the necessary arrangements in place. A financial adviser can help you and your parents work through the options and plan ahead.
An adviser can help your parents:
- decide whether to sell their home, liquidate other assets, or access equity finance in the form of a reverse mortgage
- determine whether their preferred care option is affordable
- ensure all estate planning and advance health directives are in order
- reduce aged care fees and maximise benefits.
An adviser can help you work out if you can:
- afford to reduce your working hours to care for your parents
- pay for renovations to your home so they can live with you
- contribute to the cost of care.
Accepting that elderly parents can no longer live independently and helping them transition to the next stage can be a difficult time for families. Talking together, planning ahead and seeking professional advice can go a long way towards helping your parents enjoy the best possible lifestyle.