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Planning for the future as you get older – Retirement Villages and Aged Care

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There’s a lot to consider when planning for retirement or determining “what next” when you reach a stage in your life where you are considering making the move to a retirement village or aged care facility. Attwood Marshall Lawyers Property & Commercial Lawyer, Andrea McGarry, discusses the latest updates on the aged care industry and the investment being made by the Government to give older Australians the safe and secure retirement and care they deserve.  

Introduction

As we age there are many things we need to consider. Planning for the future is imperative to ensure that your best interests are looked after and that you are able to achieve your retirement goals and live the safe and comfortable life you want.

Australia’s aged care system has been in the spotlight for the past few years with the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety exposing the shortfall our older Australians have had to experience for too long.

With the Government throwing money at the problem in the 2021-2022 Federal Budget, and the majority of the Royal Commission’s recommendations being accepted by the Government, older Australians and their families, in conjunction with the aged care workforce, are eagerly waiting and watching to see how the reforms will roll out, and when the improved system may become a reality.

With all the shortcomings of the aged care system exposed, there are many things to consider when planning for your retirement and making sure your future care needs are met.

Balancing independence and support

Retirement villages and aged care facilities are two options that someone may consider as they move into the next stage of their life. It is important to understand the difference between these two types of accommodations in determining if they will be suitable for you or your loved one.

Retirement Villages

Although the idea of remaining in our home for as long as possible is generally the priority and desire for most Australians, there are alternative options that can provide you with what you need. There are also benefits that someone can experience when they make the move to a retirement village.

The benefits include:

  • Being able to be more social
  • A safe and secure environment where you are no longer on your own or isolated
  • Getting assistance with what you need
  • Being in an environment that promotes physical activity
  • Access to other services, support, and facilities you may not have at home.

Retirement villages offer independence, where residents can freely travel, and maintain an active and social lifestyle. Retirement villages are ideal for older people who still maintain a high-level of independence and require minimal care or assistance. Each retirement village offers different levels of care and assistance packages, so it is important to do your homework to find out if a facility will meet your needs and expectations.

There are a variety of retirement village models which offer different services. Each retirement village will have its own set of fees and it is important to make sure you have a thorough understanding of the fees and charges applicable to you so that you do not get any nasty surprises down the track.

Upon entering a retirement village, you will be required to sign a Retirement Village Agreement. These Agreements are extremely complex and lengthy documents. It is very important that you obtain legal advice before you sign a Retirement Village Agreement so that you have a comprehensive understanding of the costs associated with living in the village, rules that will apply to you, contractual terms and conditions, living and service costs, and exit strategies.

At Attwood Marshall Lawyers, we regularly review Retirement Village Agreements to ensure our clients make an informed choice prior to moving into a retirement village and transitioning through the next stage in their life.

Read more: Everything you need to know about Retirement Village Agreements

Aged Care Facilities

Aged care facilities are often funded by the Government and provide a higher level of care for older Australians who need that next level of support. The fees charged by aged care facilities generally cover all the expenses of care including food and accommodation. However, the fee structures are quite complex and can be difficult to understand. It is important to seek advice from an Accredited Aged Care Professional come the time you are considering moving into an aged care facility.  

You can find an Accredited Aged Care Professional in your local area who can assist you with your financial and legal decision-making process to help you access and fund an appropriate aged care solution for your circumstances, by clicking here.

In order to make the transition to an aged care facility, first you will need to complete an ACAT assessment. An ACAT assessment can be completed at home or in hospital and is arranged by the Aged Care Assessment team. The assessment will help determine the level of care you may need and what type of services you may be eligible for.

Read more about the Aged Care Assessment process here: Transitioning to aged care

Read more about Services Australia’s means test here: Services Australia will assess your financial details to work out how much you may need to pay towards aged care. Click here to find out more about the means test.

Hope for a new era for aged care

Older Australians want to have their say when it comes to reforming the aged care system, and rightfully so, as they are directly impacted and devastated by its shortcomings.

A recent survey by National Seniors Australia, which included more than 4,500 older Australian respondents, found almost a third of aged care residents had suffered from substandard care. When responding to the survey, the participants expressed their desire to be involved in reforming aged care, but felt they had little opportunity to do so.

Research into co-designing aged care with older people and their families, and the aged care workforce, was among the Royal Commission’s 148 recommendations handed down in their final report in February this year.

The principle of co-design is increasingly gaining traction in the global public policy arena. The Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) describes co-design as a set of processes, principles and practice tools for “generating and testing new solutions to public problems” by “empowering people affected by a policy issue to contribute to its solution”.

Co-design requires more than “lending an ear” to someone impacted by the current system. It involves participants actively being involved in innovating new systems all the way from idea through to implementation.

The Australian Government accepted the Royal Commission’s co-design recommendation in principle, and has put in play a Council of Elders, with the Council established to provide a voice to Government from older Australians.

Some of the other key recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety included:

  • The government to throw out the old aged care act and replace it with a new model, underpinned by a universal right to high quality, safe and timely support of older Australians.
  • The creation of a new office and inspector general of aged care to monitor and implement the governance of this new system.
  • Introduce independent care finders for older Australians. An independent care finder will take on the role to help older Australians, their families and carers, access the services available in their local community. There is a lot of confusion with the current aged care system and having dedicated independent care finders help older Australians should reduce some of that confusion in navigating the current system.

The 2021 Federal Budget Recap

Aged care was the centerpiece of the Federal Budget this year. The budget package will see the aged care sector receive $17.7 billion dollars over the next 5 years.

The Government intends to break the funding down into five different pillars.

1. Home Care: $7.5 billion dollars will go towards supporting senior Australians choosing to remain in their home. This package will provide 80,000 additional home care packages, which falls short from the Royal Commission’s recommendation of an additional 140,000 home care packages.

2. Residential aged care services and sustainability: $7.8 billion will go towards improving and simplifying residential aged care services to ensure that senior Australians get value for money services in their chosen facilities. This includes $3.9 billion being spent on increasing the amount of frontline care.

3. Residential aged care quality and safety: $942 million will be spent to help drive systematic improvements to residential aged care quality and safety. This will include $200 million being spent to introduce a new star rating system to highlight the quality of aged care services and better inform senior Australians when they are making important decisions about living in a care facility.

4. Workforce: $652 million is being invested into the workforce to try to grow a skilled and professional aged care workforce.

5. Governance: $698 million will be spent to improve the governance across the aged care system. This will embed respect, care, and dignity at the heart of the system, guaranteeing better choices, high quality and safe care for seniors.

How has the aged care industry reacted to the Budget announcement?

Overall, aged care has been one of the “winners” of the Federal Budget, but like any budget item, there is inevitable criticism. The general reaction has been that a “cash-splash” is great, but is it really going to make the difference needed and deliver the promised reform of the aged care system.

The cash-splash is a good place to start, but it will be a matter of watching this space as the reforms roll out. The sector is going to need continuous attention to ensure that this investment achieves what it is set out to do.

Helping you understand your options and ensuring you make an informed choice when transitioning to that next stage in your life

Preparation can go a long way. As you approach retirement or that next stage in your life where you require a bit more assistance, we can help make your transition a positive one. A transition to care involves a lot more than just selling your family home and ‘buying’ a retirement village unit. There are quite complicated legal, taxation, and financial issues involved (including your Centrelink entitlements). From helping you sell your business or property, or reviewing your estate planning, we have dedicated specialist teams that can ensure you achieve the most positive outcome. Most people don’t realise that their Will and Enduring Power of Attorney need to be considered or reviewed when they are going through this transition in their life. Many people don’t have a Will or Enduring Power of Attorney and it is very important to have these documents in place before you make the move into care. Most retirement villages and care facilities require you to have these legal documents in place before you move in.

Most importantly, if you are ready to make the move into a retirement village or aged care facility, we want you to have confidence and peace of mind in knowing you have made an informed decision about your living, care, and financial options. Our team have the experience and industry-expertise to assist you every step of the way.

Contact our Property Law and Aged Care team to get advice on all facets of your transition to retirement living by calling Property and Commercial Law Department Manager, Jess Kimpton, on direct line 07 5506 8214, mobile 0432 857 300 or email jkimpton@attwoodmarshall.com.au. You can also call us on our 24/7 phone line any time by phoning 1800 621 071.

Our team are available to visit at any of our conveniently located offices at  CoolangattaKingscliffRobina Town CentreBrisbaneSydney, or Melbourne.

Read more:

Everything you need to know about Retirement Village Agreements

Part 1: Transitioning to aged care – it’s important to plan for the future

Part 2: Transitioning to aged care – what to expect when entering a residential aged care facility

Aged care sector receives good budget news

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