Some call it the silly season, others call it the festive season, but for many a better title would be the “aged care season”. It’s a time when families come together, maybe for the first time since last Christmas, and realise that Mum or Dad – or both – need some care and support.
The first step is to start a conversation, which may well be the hardest part. Yet encouraging aged parents to get home care, or to make a move sooner rather than later, will almost certainly be in their best interests.
The direction of the conversation will depend on the state of their health. If they are rattling around in a big old home and the maintenance is getting them down, a good option may be to talk about a move to a retirement village or land lease community. If they love living at home, but need support to stay there, care at home is probably the least frightening way to start the discussion.
If downsizing seems like a good idea, taking a tour of suitable facilities, joining in an activity or attending an open day are all good ways to get the ball rolling. Alternatively, do some forward planning and give them a Christmas gift of the book Downsizing Made Simple, written by aged care specialist Rachel Lane and myself, and released last month. It explains all the options in great detail.
Whether staying at home or moving, there’s a range of home care services to help people remain independent, including the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, home care packages, DVA services and private care services.
There are many issues to explore. Australians have a wonderful array of choices, and a great deal of government support available, but the price of all this choice is complexity.
For example, be extremely wary of leaping into a granny flat arrangement – often perceived as an easy option. It can tear a family apart. Far too often we hear about families who sold Mum’s home to build a granny flat at the home of one of the siblings, in return for their promise to take care of Mum for the rest of her life. The other siblings all too often feel that their inheritance has been stolen, and the situation for the carer child often becomes difficult when they divorce, become ill, want to travel … or when Mum becomes too frail for home care.
These are just a few of the many issues that will need to be faced. Other areas to examine include the effect on the age pension of any change of residence, how you can plan ahead to minimise costs of aged care if that becomes needed, and the best financial arrangements to minimise costs and maximise effectiveness in your situation.