Finance advice for carers of the elderly

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One topic people don’t like talking about more than dying is getting old and not being able to look after yourself.

However, with our population over the age of 70 likely to double to nearly four million in the next 20 years, aged care is an issue that will be of increasing concern to a growing number of people.

It is not just retirees who need to understand how aged care works but anyone with aging parents may find themselves having to understand a complex system at very short notice.

Many people may make their own private arrangements for their retirement living. They may choose to stay in their own homes and ask for help from family members or carers. Some may choose a retirement village and retain their independence. For others, a time will come when they need a higher level of care where they will need to move into an aged care facility.

Residential aged care is provided at either low level or high level. Some facilities will provide both levels of care, and the standards of different homes vary from basic to more deluxe. Of course, the costs will vary accordingly.

The government can assist with the costs of aged care dependant on your eligibility. This eligibility is determined by Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACAT) who will determine an assessment of the need and level of care required. When deciding on a facility it’s worthwhile to visit a number of them as places are subject to existing vacancies. In most cases, facilities will also have waiting lists so it may be necessary to apply to more than just one facility.

In most cases a contribution towards the costs of their aged care is required. Not surprisingly, contributions vary, and depend upon income, assets and pensioner status. Fees can include accommodation bonds, accommodation fees and both basic and income-tested daily care fees.

Sometimes the need for aged care can arise at very short notice. For example, a stroke or a broken hip may be the trigger for an immediate move. The stress of entering aged care can be quite considerable and this isn't helped by the range of facilities on offer and the complexity of funding arrangements. Usually the children of the aged care recipient are left to deal with trying to understand all the options.

Whilst the children consider just paying for the contribution themselves or selling the aged care recipient’s personal home to fund the contribution, it is important to note that there are some smart financial planning strategies that can be used, in order to save tens of thousands of dollars.

Getting good advice from a qualified financial planner can help maintain the level of assets and avoid permanently losing income and Centrelink benefits if advice is sought prior to the aged care recipient moving in.

Whilst nobody wants to talk about losing their independence or capabilities and having to move into aged cared facility, the emotional upheaval on all parties can be eased by early planning. Planning for aged care is the best course of action and should be discussed in every family.

Olivia Maragna is the principal financial adviser at Woolloongabba based firm Aspire Retire Financial Services and has been recently named the Australian Adviser of the Year. She is providing finance advice as part of brisbanetimes.com.au's Good Advice project. Olivia's advice is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions.

Send your finance questions to Olivia at scoop@brisbanetimes.com.au or contact@aspireretire.com.au

Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/blogs/good-finance-advice/finance-advice-for-carers-of-the-elderly-20130308-2fpkt.html#ixzz2N7NlwTyi

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