With decades of experience in retirement planning here in Adelaide and across Australia, we help people write what we hope will be a liberated and rewarding chapter of their life. Part of being ready and at peace however, is ensuring you understand aged care and have the funding in place to pay for it. It’s particularly important to know how the sector will operate in the Covid era and beyond. With the likelihood of new Covid variants, it’s hard to say just when ‘beyond’ will begin. In this article, let’s have a look at some of the key issues you need to consider for yourself, or a loved one who is about to enter a facility.
State and territory governments may restrict visitor access during a surge in Covid cases. Knowing your rights and the responsibilities of aged care facilities will help you to avoid exploitation. Let’s take a scenario where an aged care facility has blocked access by visitors to their premises. First of all, check to see if there is a public health order in the state or territory they’re in. Assuming that there is, facilities still need to meet their obligations to residents, which are outlined in the Charter of Aged Care Rights. Learn about these rights and talk to your loved one inside the facility to ensure they’re being respected. Work with them to gather evidence if they’re not, so you can take the matter further if needed. Ensure that the aged care facility has ways to keep residents connected with their family, such as using video technology in place of in-person visits. While a residential facility may apply restrictions on visitors, there are often exemptions for compassionate reasons (for example, the death of a close family member) or to provide essential care.
In short, ensure your aged care facility is acting on the basis of a public health order, continuing to meet their charter obligations and allowing fair exemptions. If you’re concerned that they’re not, you can take the matter up with them directly. If that’s not successful, seek support from the Older Persons Advocacy Network by phoning 1800 700 600.
With Covid likely to be with us for a while, it’s important for aged care residents to help in ensuring their own safety – during restrictions or otherwise. Here are some tips to keep mind:
- Wash your hands using soap and water or alcohol gel.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow.
- Disinfect the things you touch frequently like keys, handles and doorknobs.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Keep 1.5 metres away from people.
- Reduce the number of people you see and keep the visits short. Avoid shaking hands, hugging and kissing when you meet.
What to Expect During a Covid Outbreak
If you are in an aged care centre during a Covid outbreak, you can expect a range of changes. Knowing these in advance may help you to be less anxious about them when they occur.
- Visitors will usually be banned and you will not be able to leave except under special circumstances.
- Staff will keep your family informed on the latest developments.
- Signage may be placed on the rooms of residents who have tested positive and parts of the building may be cordoned off.
- You may be isolated from other residents.
- You may be tested repeatedly for the virus.
- You’ll notice more frequent and thorough cleaning.
- You’ll see more staff wearing masks, gloves and face shields.
- Food may be prepared in a different area and look different to what you’re used to.
- You may notice new staff as some existing staff isolate at home.
Residential Aged Care Standards
It’s important to understand the standards that government subsidised aged care facilities are required to meet, so you can take action if they fall short.
Their obligations are summarised in a document known as the Aged Care Quality Standards. Here are some of the key issues it covers:
Service Environment. The facility needs to be welcoming, clean and safe. Residents should be able to move freely indoors and outdoors.
Feedback and Complaints. Residents and visitors should be encouraged and supported to provide feedback and make complaints. The process should be transparent and residents should have access to language translation services if they need.
Staffing. The facility needs to have the variety and quantity of staff to provide a safe environment and deliver good quality services. Staff need to be competent, qualified, properly trained and interact respectfully with residents.
Governance. The facility should have a governing body that creates a ‘culture of safe, inclusive and quality care’.
Funding Aged Care Post-Covid
If you’ve been severely financially hampered by Covid and are concerned about your ability to fund your aged care, have a look at the Government assistance available to see what help you may be able to access. You can get support to pay for home care packages, aged care facility fees and residential respite care. Under the current rules, you won’t be eligible if you have realiseable assets of over $37,732.50, have gifted over $10,000 in the last 12 months or $30,000 in the last 5 years or have not completed the Government’s aged care cost assessment form known as SA486.
Given the importance and complexity of funding your aged care, particularly amid the uncertainties brought on by Covid, it’s important to get tailored retirement planning advice from an experienced adviser. You can certainly arm yourself with the basics first if you like. Services Australia has excellent introductory information on aged care financing such as Refundable Accommodation Deposits and aged care means testing along with information on the Pensions Loans Scheme. You can also learn from Aged Care Guide about borrowing against your property to fund your aged care expenses using a reverse mortgage. Call us today and we’ll explain all of these options and more to you. More importantly, we’ll balance them against your current circumstances to help you decide which approach would work best for you.
We can expect the future of aged care in Australia to be quite different from the present. Pressures on the budget from the Covid response and longer-term strains caused by an ageing population and shrinking workforce are likely to restrict Government support. Don’t leave your aged care to chance. Talk to us today and we’ll help you to take proactive steps to ensure you’re well looked after in your retirement years.
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IMPORTANT; This information is general in nature only. It does not take into account your individual circumstances. We recommend that you seek professional advice before making any investment decision.
All the best
Paul Garner CFP®
Certified Responsible Investment Financial Adviser