This week on 4CRB the RFS Advice Director of Financial Services and retirement expert Troy Theobald makes his regular appearance on 4CRB radio with aged care specialist Belinda Veriton.

Listen to 6 key questions for aged care – 4CRB January Show

Belinda and her team assist countless Gold Coast families as they embark on the aged care journey on behalf of their loved ones, and today we are asking Belinda some of the most important questions she encounters on a day-to-day basis.

What stops people from researching aged care earlier?

There are probably two common themes that I’ve seen emerge: many of us don’t want to admit that we may need significant assistance with daily living at some point in the future. We don’t like the idea of losing our independence and so we bury our heads in the proverbial sand.

The second thing is that many people are unaware that there are often wait times involved and that the financial side of things can be complex.  When they then start to research it all, they realise that they probably need some financial advice as part of the journey and that the inertia involved in setting up home care services or moving into residential aged care is greater than what they initially first thought.  Getting the right care at the right time doesn’t happen at the same click of the fingers, which can be a rude awakening, so I think there is a lack of education around the need to start considering care proactively.

To a lesser extent, there are also a lot of people who have the notion that when they enter residential care they will be forced to sell their home. Sometimes selling the home is required in order to afford care, but not always, and sometimes you actually shouldn’t sell the home, so it really does depend on your individual circumstances.

What are people’s largest concerns around entering aged care?

The first major fear I believe is vulnerability: Unfortunately, the media isn’t always helpful in creating the right perceptions of care – generally newsworthy items around aged care tend to centre on the negative and we hear stories of elder abuse etc. Residential aged care in particular highlights the vulnerability of those who are physically frail.

While those situations are never OK and the media does play a role in holding providers accountable, I can honestly say that there are so many amazing people working in both the home care sector and residential aged care: people who literally devote themselves to the care and comfort of others.  The overwhelming majority of feedback that I receive from our aged care clients is positive. They wish they’d done something about accessing care earlier.

The second major fear is that it’s not affordable – we are really fortunate in Australia to have access to services in our home or in residential care that other countries’ residents do not, and despite the fact that it’s not “free” there is always a way for Australians to access care even if you don’t have any assets at all.

Who is normally making the decisions?

This is indeed a significant question.  If we are organised and have been brave enough to think about the fact that we can all end up in a situation where we’re unable to manage our own affairs, then we’ve appointed an Enduring Power of Attorney (more often than not our spouse or children) and these are people we can lean on to assist with organizing appropriate care services (whatever that might look like, be it home care or residential care). In my role as aged care financial adviser, I tend to end up dealing with Enduring Powers of Attorney for the most part. Clear direction to our Powers of Attorney before loss of capacity both verbally and written into the Power of Attorney document, can mean a greater chance that we get the outcome we want when we can no longer look after ourselves.

Significant difficulties arise when someone loses capacity to make decisions (whether through an accidental trauma or through a stroke or cognitive decline) and they haven’t made provision for this, and no one is authorized to act. If we want to be in control of our own destiny, so to speak, then we may need to confront our fear and be proactive about putting measures like a trusted Power of Attorney in place.

What key paperwork should they have sorted in advance?

Definitely the first document to have in place is an Enduring Power of Attorney – the importance of this document cannot be over-emphasized.

Thereafter, I would say that getting an ACAT assessment earlier rather than later can assist in sufficient care being available at the right time. If there are a few daily living activities that are becoming more challenging (like deep cleaning of bathrooms etc) then it’s time to give myagedcare a call and book an assessment – there is a wait time for the assessment itself (this can be significant) and then there can be a wait to actually get access to a package.

Moreover, further down the track, if residential care may be needed, then getting the ACAT referral codes for this ahead of time can make things much less stressful when the time comes.

The actual means testing paperwork that could be necessary for a home care package and will definitely be necessary for residential care only needs to be done at the time of accessing the services.

What are some of the larger changes to aged care over the last few years?

There have been some changes to legislation over the last decade, although not major ones in the last few years. But I would say that the main changes relate to the fact that more funded home care packages are available for people to access and the care budget is now consumer directed, so you’re able to choose the services that you need and want and you’re able to change home care providers if you’re not comfortable with the current provider.

In addition to this, there has also been an increase in funding to residential aged care providers, with the care budget per day increasing significantly over the last couple of years. After the Royal Commission there have also been positive changes to accountability requirements for residential aged care providers and this helps to increase the confidence of the public in those providers.

What are some of the tips or traps for aged care?

My number one tip is:

Don’t be the ostrich – don’t bury your head in the sand and think that you’ll never need care. Most of us will need some help at some point, and if one approaches this with a positive perspective and seeks the assistance available earlier, it can help to keep us healthier for longer and therefore keep the residential aged care option delayed for longer.

Tip 2 is:

If you think residential aged care might be needed in the next 12 months, start the process of looking at different providers (residences) in the geographical location that works best for your main visitors – if that’s going to be particular family members, make it as easy as possible for them to get to you. Make a list of at least three choices because sometimes you can’t get into the first choice.

Traps that people fall into include:

  1. Not briefing Enduring Powers on what assets there are and where they are.
  2. Selling assets without getting financial advice – sometimes people sell things like shares without considering the tax implications, and this can cause a large tax bill they weren’t expecting.
  3. Assuming that Centrelink can see their bank balances – a lot of people don’t realise that they actually have to update Centrelink if there are changes to bank balances (positive or negative) and if they close a bank account or open a new bank account. Sometimes we find things on people’s Centrelink records that haven’t existed for 10 years or more.  
  4. Not realising the time period that a retirement village can take to return the exit entitlement on a unit when you move from the village to the residential aged care.

Click here to view my Economic research material for January 2024

Ask Troy a Question.

Simply fill in the below form with your question and we will get back to you shortly.