For all those who want to stay in their homes for as long as possible, Louise Biti, director of Aged Care Steps, has one critical piece of advice.
Ageing well is about being prepared.
How will you handle potential changes in your physical and mental health as you age? How will you manage your finances to ensure you have choice and flexibility?
If you experience increasing levels of frailty, this does not automatically mean you will have to move out of your home, but you may need to ask for some help to maintain your independence or to reduce the pressure on family and friends.
Without help, your health may decline more rapidly and may result in an earlier move into residential care.
Choices for home care
If you want to stay in your home for as long as possible, an important component of your planning is knowing what services are available and which ones are likely to best suit your needs.
Family and friends may be able to provide the support you need or you can pay people to provide these services. The Federal Government subsidises a range of services to help manage the costs and make care more affordable.
Your four main choices for accessing help in your home are to:
- rely on friends and family
- pay for private care services
- access the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP)
- apply for a Home Care Package.
The last two options – CHSP and Home Care Packages – are subsidised by the Federal Government, making them affordable sources of care.
The CHSP and Home Care Packages provide help through services such as:
- meal preparation
- cleaning and laundry services
- help with showering/bathing and dressing
- basic home maintenance
- basic nursing care
- transport services
- allied health and therapy services.
The CHSP may be suitable if you are mostly able to cope at home and just need basic help with one or two daily activities to maintain your independence. The service providers receive funding grants from the Government and can decide their level of capacity to provide support and the fees you will be charged.
Home Care Packages are tailored and coordinated to meet your individual requirements when you have a number of health issues and more frequent or complex needs for care services. The allocated package provides you with a specific budget and you can choose which services you would like to access. The fees you pay for a Home Care Package are determined by the Government, with a basic daily care fee and an income-tested fee.
The government website, MyAgedCare, is your first contact point for both CHSP and Home Care Packages.
You will be asked a quick set of questions over the phone so you can be referred to an appropriate assessment team. The assessors will usually visit you in your home (or hospital) to talk about your needs and make observations on your capacity and your home environment. Contact MyAgedCare on 1800 200422 or visit myagedcare.gov.au.
Local council services
Your local council may provide services for older people to help them engage in the community or to manage expenses. Examples of these services include:
- library services that deliver books to your home
- disabled parking zones and permits
- older citizen centres and support groups
- community buses
- seniors cards that provide a range of discounts.
You should ask your local council for details of services provided. The council may also be able to provide a list of local CHSP and home-care providers.
Support for carers
Helping you to stay at home may also require support services for your carer. This support may be respite to give the carer a break or tools to help undertake caring activities. Two organisations in particular that provide support include:
You may wish to spend your last days in the familiar surroundings of home with family and friends, rather than in a hospital or hospice. Palliative care programs can support this choice to receive end-of-life care in the home. Information on palliative care is available at https://palliativecare.org.au/
Making your choice
Choosing the most appropriate option will depend on your personal, home and financial situation as well as the level of help you need.
Some key questions to consider include:
- What kind of tasks do you need help with to continue living in your home?
- Which tasks are most important to you?
- What support do you have around you from family and friends?
- How involved are these people in your daily life and what capacity do they have to help with your care needs?
- Can you afford to pay for private care or do you need to access government-subsidised services?
While it is important for you to make decisions based on your preferences, it is also critical to involve your family and friends in this process to understand the impact on them and the concerns they may have. Seeking advice from an accredited aged-care professional can help you and your family make fully informed choices.
Were you aware of these services? Do you know of others that we haven’t mentioned? Are you eligible for an Age Pension? Do you know your rights? The PensionChecker™ tool has all the information you need.
This article first appeared in the March 2019 Retirement Affordability Index.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is general and does not take into account your particular circumstances. We recommend specific financial tax or legal advice be sought before any action is taken to apply the rules to your specific circumstances. Refer to the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before investing in any product. Aged Care Steps ABN 42 156 656 843 is holder of AFSL 486723. Current as at 10 March 2019.
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