MEDIA RELEASE For many people, going into aged care is not a choice but something that is forced onto them; however there are steps they and their families can take to help make sure they end up with the right care, says Melinda Measday, wealth management director at HLB Mann Judd Sydney.
“Most Australians would choose not to enter care, however often the decision is not left up to them,” she says.
“Many people don’t realise that if they, or their elderly parent or spouse, has a health or medical problem that sees them wind up in hospital, they may not be allowed to return home.
“The hospital has an obligation to ensure there is adequate care in the home before a Senior Australian can be discharged. For someone with significant health issues – for instance, they are no longer mobile or they have lost capacity – the hospital will not discharge them unless there is someone willing and able to act as a full time live-in carer.
“This may be extremely difficult to organize at short notice, even if there are the financial means to pay for help.”
Ms Measday says that if there is no one to act as carer in the home, then a ‘Person Responsible’ – as outlined under section 33A(4) of the Guardianship Act 1987 – will be required to find a place at an aged care facility.
“Unfortunately, there may be extreme time pressures to find somewhere – often less than a week – as Medicare may not cover the cost of hospital care once someone has been approved for discharge.
“And not only is the choice of when you enter care taken away from you but also where you go, as popular aged care facilities often have long wait lists.
“For someone who has just been told that their parent is no longer able to look after themselves, and can’t return to their home, this is a hugely stressful and emotional time. Often they have no idea where to start – should they begin calling aged care homes at random? How do they assess whether the home is right for their parent? How will they pay for it? It’s a very difficult situation,” she says.
Ms Measday says that there are ways of minimizing the risk of being put in this situation, with a bit of preparation.
“There are a few things that families can do to help manage things. The first thing to do is to communicate with family members and make a plan in case of illness or a fall. Talk to friends and find out if they have personal experience with any homes and can recommend somewhere. Ask elderly parents if they have any preferences or wishes.
“It’s also possible to organize an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) assessment while still at home, which can help people work out whether they are eligible for support such as a home care package or residential respite care, and get on a relevant wait list.
“People should also visit aged care facilities to review what they offer and how they operate, and determine which facility would be preferred.
“For those who think it is likely that they, or their parent, will need care in the future, but who would strongly prefer to remain in their own home, consider getting a grandchild or uni student to live in the house, or even a family friend so there is overnight support if needed.
“Overall, the best approach is to seek help early, and keep the lines of communication open so that everyone involved is prepared, and knows what is expected of them if the worst happens,” Ms Measday says.