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How to plan ahead and avoid a care crisis

When we hit retirement age, many of us start to plan how we’ll spend our post-work lives and how much money we’ll need. Our plans may involve travel, spending time with the grandchildren, starting a hobby or volunteering. But how many of us spare a thought for our potential future care needs?

Not nearly enough according to a National Seniors Australia survey of 5,000 of their members, which revealed that four out of five older Australians will need to go into some sort of care. However, only three per cent of us have planned for it.

The survey showed that just three per cent of seniors plans to spend more money in later life. Majority of these (61%) people were aiming to spend the same amount throughout retirement.

Another third said they planned to spend more in the early years of retirement before scaling back their spending.

These figures seem to indicate that many people picture spending their money on travel and leisure, not on care and medical costs as they age. However, as we live longer lives, majority of us will require some sort of care services. This means our living costs will tend to increase as we get older rather than decrease.

Government funding

While Commonwealth funding contributes around $14.2 billion in funding in the form of residential aged care and home care packages, there is a significant funding shortfall. This means that around 150,000 Australians approved for a certain level of care are currently on a waiting list to receive this care.

Without a plan in place, many of these older Australians are not receiving the care they need and without family support may be struggling to get the care and quality of life they deserve.

Steps you can take to plan and avoid a care crisis

While planning where you would like to spend your final years and what this will cost is not as exciting as planning a round the world cruise, you may be much better off if you spend time doing so.

Many people wait for a medical crisis to make a decision about care. However, research shows that those who plan ahead and weigh up their options before their health deteriorates significantly have better quality of life and outcomes – and importantly more choice.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure you can avoid a care crisis and are prepared for whatever situations may arise.

1. Visit My Aged Care’s website

The Federal Government’s My Aged Care website contains a range of information on getting assessed for services in your area. Australians over the age of 65 can apply for an assessment through My Aged Care to check if they’re eligible for a package. You can also use the fee estimator tools to get an idea of costs.

Getting in the system early is a good idea as waiting until your care needs hit a crisis point can mean you may not get the care you need straight away.

2. Research options in your area

The best way to know what options are available is to visit the retirement villages, aged care facilities and seniors’ living communities in your area. Or if you plan to age in your own home, do some research on home care providers near you.

While residential aged care facilities and nursing homes are what many people think of when they think of care as they age, there are now many other options. One of those being Seasons. At Seasons we operate using a home care model within a retirement community setting that may offer you the balance of independence and care that you’re looking for.

Having a short list of providers that you like can help you make a decision when the time comes. It also gives you an idea of costs and helps you plan financially. Talking over the options available to you with a financial planner can help you consider the effect these options will have on your assets and how to maximise your cash flow for your later years.

3. Start the conversation with your family members

Talking about your wishes for shouldn’t be a taboo topic. Starting the conversation with family members before care is required means that everyone is on the same page and understands what’s important when the time comes to get extra care.

4. Put together an Advance Care Plan and have Enduring Power of Attorneys in place

Starting the conversation is also a chance to get your wishes in writing by putting together an advanced care plan and nominating enduring power of attorneys to act on your behalf. This means if you are suddenly unable to act for yourself due to an accident or illness that your wishes are known and can be respected by your loved ones and medical team.

5. Act before you are ready

Many people say that ‘they’re not ready’ up until it’s too late and a medical crisis takes many of their choices away from them. Don’t wait until you’re ready to start the ball rolling to look at your options. At Seasons we offer seniors the unique opportunity to ‘try before you buy‘ and experience what community living can be like before making the move. This can be a great experience to answer any questions you’re unsure about.

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