Watching your parents get older and start to have difficulties caring for themselves is tough. While you can’t stop the ageing process, there are things that you can do to help your parents remain comfortable and safe at home for as long as possible.
How to help your parents to ‘age in place’
Samantha Geelan, a financial advisor specialising in aged care recommends having an open and honest conversation with your parents, sooner rather than later, about what ageing in place ideally looks like for them.
“While challenging, these conversations are imperative to achieve the best outcomes,” she says.
Where possible, include all relevant family members to ensure that everyone’s expectations align, and to consider alternatives if they don’t.
Also important is Advance Care planning, which involves discussing and preferably documenting the medical care they wish to receive, Geelan says. She advises encouraging your parent/s to speak with their doctor, carer and other family members to clarify their requirements. They will need to arrange the necessary legal documentation, and appoint people they trust to act on their behalf for their financial, medical and accommodation requirements if needed.
Understanding your home care options
Understanding what options are available gives your parents the greatest opportunity of living out their later years on their terms, Geelan says. There are two ways of doing this.
“Educate yourself and your parents to give everyone a better opportunity of understanding the complexities of the aged care space. Or seek specialised advice and assistance from an expert.”
She recommends looking for an expert who will work collaboratively with all parties—including doctors, solicitor and family members.
If you choose to do things yourself, the best place to start is the My Aged Care website, which covers information about home care eligibility, what packages are available, current waiting times and how to register. Once your parents are registered, a trained assessor can talk to them about their care needs and whether they’re eligible to receive funded services.
A variety of home care packages are available, ranging from level 1 (the lowest level of support) to level 4 (the highest level). There is also support available if you are caring for someone at home who is nearing the end of their life.
Start planning early
The latest figures show that 127,748 people are waiting for their appropriate level of care, and current wait times for most home care packages is longer than 12 months, Geelan explains.
“If government-subsidised assistance is needed for your parents to remain at home, having a comprehensive ageing-in-place strategy can provide a sense of empowerment and control,” she adds.
“A well-formulated and executed plan can result in an optimal financial outcome, minimise aged care or home care fees, while retaining or maximising Centrelink or Department of Veterans Affairs entitlements.
“Conversely, delaying action could lead to unwanted outcomes that can be difficult or impossible to undo,” she says.
Geelan advises you seek professional assistance from people like your accountant, solicitor, doctor, accredited aged care professionals and home care providers.
“Do your research, ask your family and friends for their experiences with any relevant professionals, providers or facilities that you’re considering before you commit. And make sure your parents feel comfortable with the individual or team they will be working with to create their Advance Care Plan.”
Early planning gives your parents the best chance of getting the care they need, when they need it.