It’s that time of year when families come together to share in the holiday season. For many who have not seen their aging grandparents, or parents, in some time, coming together during the festive season can be confronting with greater awareness that a loved one needs a little more help around the house or may be ready to transition to aged care. Recently on Radio 4CRB, Attwood Marshall Lawyers Wills & Estates Senior Associate and Accredited Aged Care Professional, Debbie Sage joined Robyn Hyland to talk about the difficult conversations people may be having with their older relatives this Christmas, and the important changes to be aware of in the aged care sector.
When you uncover that a loved one is starting to struggle living independently, or that their health requires that next level of care, it can be a difficult conversation to approach.
On one hand, our older friends and relatives can be defensive or in denial that they may be reaching a point in their life that they need extra care and support in their day-to-day activities.
On the other hand, people may be too proud to ask for the help that they need. We all admire the “Aussie battler” attitude, but when you have reached a stage in life that you physically, or emotionally need extra help, that attitude can only serve you so well.
It is important for families to understand what options are available for our older loved ones. It isn’t necessarily about selling the family home and moving into an aged care facility; there are a lot of alternative solutions to suit different people and different circumstances, including accessing at-home care packages to be able to remain at home for as long as possible.
The best place to start doing research
If you are at the beginning of your aged care journey, one of the best places to start doing research is visiting the Government’s “My Aged Care” website.
The website offers information about the types of services available, including Home Care Packages, and will help provide an understanding of what to expect if you, or a loved one, decide to transition to an aged care facility.
Understanding who is eligible to receive which type of service is also explained well, and the costs associated with the different services.
Once you know which direction you think you are going to take, the next step is to discuss your intentions with a financial planner and lawyer, who can help you understand some of the common financial and legal issues that should be considered when transitioning to aged care.
What you need to consider when transitioning to aged care
There’s no such thing as one size fits all. When you have reached a stage in your life that aged care is required, it really is important to arm yourself with all the information possible to know what is going to work for you and your unique circumstances.
If remaining in your home for longer is your priority, then there are options available to support you with that goal in mind.
It is important to also understand the wait times you will face when applying for a home care package. This should be kept in mind if you are putting off applying for these types of services as they are not available immediately; planning is key.
Alternatively, if you or a loved one can no longer remain at home because it is no longer sage and/or you need that extra care every day, then transitioning to an aged care facility is no doubt the next step. There is a lot to consider when making that move, and different facilities offer different services and fee structures. It is important to get legal and financial advice around this to ensure that the choice you make is financially viable, and you also are comfortable with your new living arrangements and the care you will receive.
Transitioning to aged care can impact your assets, your financials, and your estate. These types of discussions are important to have early so that you can plan effectively and ensure you are making an informed decision.
If you are transitioning to an aged care facility, never sign any agreements without getting appropriate legal advice. These types of agreements can be extremely comprehensive and have significant financial implications. It is important to ensure you understand your rights and obligations under an aged care service agreement or retirement village agreement and where required, further negotiations may need to be made with the operator to ensure the terms and conditions of your agreement are reasonable and in your best interests.
This is also a key time in your life to ensure that your legal documents are updated. Documents such as your Will and Enduring Power of Attorney, or an Advanced Health Directive, should be up-to-date before entering a residential aged care facility. In most cases, it is a requirement for aged care facilities to obtain a copy of a resident’s Enduring Power of Attorney and Advance Health Directive before they move in.
For many people, it can be overwhelming navigating all the options available for their transition to aged care. That’s where professional advice is so valuable to help guide you through the options and ensure you make decisions that will work now and into the future.
The latest aged care industry updates
Since the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety made their recommendations, we have seen some slow and steady changes take shape within the industry. It is promising to see that improvements to the quality of care of older Australians are being implemented, with more to come. Here are a few of the most recent developments:
In October 2022, the Government handed down the “mini-budget” which announced a grant of reprieve from aged care fee increases and promises additional funding for the sector.
This was certainly good news, as the costs of aged care was already of concern, and with the rising costs of living, this was needed.
What this budget tackled and intended to deliver:
- A better care service for aged care recipients by increasing the time of care dedicated to each resident. This means residents should expect to receive 215 care minutes each day, which includes 40 minutes of Registered Nurse time. Currently the average time of care for each resident is estimated to be roughly 175 minutes per resident each day.
- Additional funding for more registered nurses to be on site 24/7.
- Improving the quality of food in facilities to ensure residents are well nourished.
- Refining in-home care services.
- Establishing a dedicated Aged Care Complaints Commissioner to target systemic administration and governance issues and improve the outcomes for aged care residents.
Code of Conduct
On 1st December 2022, the Code of Conduct for Aged Care commenced.
The Code was developed in response to The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and applies to approved aged care providers, their workers, and governing persons.
It is intended to give older Australians who receive aged care greater confidence and understanding in the workforce who are caring for them and it clearly sets out a suitable standard of conduct.
Ultimately, the Code will be the responsibility of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to monitor and enforce compliance. The Commission will also have the power to enforce action for breachers of the Code, including banning or restricting individuals from working in aged care.
On the legislative side of things, there is the Aged Care Reform Bill currently in the Senate. The second Aged Care Reform Bill proposes to introduce:
- increased integrity and accountability for residential care providers;
- a ban on exit fees for home care packages;
- a cap on administration and management fees; and
- the requirement for residential care services to have a registered nurse onsite and on duty 24/7. This is proposed to take place from 1st July 2023, unless an exception is granted.
Under this proposal, the Department of Health and Aged Care will be required to publish information on residential care providers spending on items such as care, nursing, food, maintenance, cleaning, administration, and profits.
This information can help the community make more informed decisions when comparing one facility to another.
This legislation has not yet been passed, but it is expected this will happen soon.
The aged care workforce
One of the biggest issues in the aged care sector has been what the government is going to do to attract more staff to the industry, because there is a significant shortage of aged care workers.
It has been estimated that the sector is facing a shortage of 35,000 workers this year alone.
Part of the workforce crisis was addressed by the Fair Work Commission recently which accepted the arguments that the sector’s workers were underpaid. As a result, aged care workers are set to receive a 15 per cent pay rise.
It is important to note that this pay rise only affects direct care staff, and does not cover staff such as those employed to work in the kitchen, laundry, recreation activities and administration within the sector.
The unions were pushing for a 25 per cent rise, however the 15 per cent increase will certainly go some of the way to address the issue of underpayment.
A better paid workforce will hopefully attract more workers to the aged care sector and deliver a higher quality of care. This decision also reflects the hard work, and valuable work, aged care workers provide to our older community.
These are just a few of the items the government committed to achieve as part of the aged care reform, but no doubt there will be more to come.
Attwood Marshall Lawyers – supporting you through every stage of life
We are dedicated to helping people navigate the complex aged care industry and the various care options available. When transitioning to aged care, it is essential to get trusted advice to ensure you plan properly for your future care and that your best interests are protected.
Our purpose is to help people plan for the future and preserve their wishes. We are here to listen to what matters most to you and to support you as you transition to the next chapter in your life.
If you or a loved one wants to find out more about transitioning to aged care or estate planning, please contact our Wills and Estates and Aged Care Department Manager, Donna Tolley, on direct line 07 5506 8241, email email@example.com or free call 1800 621 071 any time.
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