It is expected that the Australian population over the age of 70 will reach nearly four million in the next 20 years, which means that aged care is an issue that will affect an increasing number of families. But it’s not just older Australians who need to understand how the aged care system works – anyone with aging parents may find themselves having to understand this complex system at very short notice.
Many people will make private arrangements for their retirement living. They may stay in their own home, perhaps with help from family or other carers. Some will move into a retirement village and retain their independence. For others, a time will come when they need a higher level of care.
The government provides substantial assistance with the costs of aged care, and eligibility for government support is determined by Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACAT). Aside from assessing the need and level of care required, the ACAT may also be able to assist in finding an appropriate place. Most people prefer to make their own choice, and it is worthwhile visiting a number of facilities. Quite often available places are subject to existing vacancies so it may be necessary to apply to a few establishments.
In most cases, a contribution towards the costs of aged care is required. Contributions vary and depend upon income, assets, and pensioner status. Fees may include a combination of means-tested accommodation and care fees, a basic daily care fee, and fees for extra optional services. Fees are revised twice yearly in line with pension revisions. Care recipients have the option of paying their accommodation fee as an upfront refundable deposit or a rent-style periodic payment.
Not all needs are the same
Sometimes the need for aged care can arise at very short notice. For example, a stroke or a broken hip may be the trigger for an immediate move. The stress of entering aged care can be considerable and this isn’t helped by the overwhelming range of facilities on offer and the complexity of funding arrangements.
The emotional upheaval on all parties can be eased by early planning and open discussion within families. A good place to start is the federal government’s My Aged Care website www.myagedcare.gov.au. You can also phone the Aged Care Information Line on 1800 200 422.
The best way to make the transition to Aged Care easier for all is to discuss the possibility openly and early. Planning ahead and understanding the process is the best course of action.
 www.health.gov.au, Australian Government Department of Health and Aging