The latest Intergenerational Report tells us that Australians aged 65 years and over accounted for 14% of the population – and that figure is rising. Whether you’re concerned about your future self or a loved one, aged care is an issue most of us will have to manage at some time in our lives.
At the time of Federation, Australians at birth had an average life expectancy of around 50 years. The most common causes of death were infectious and parasitic diseases resulting from unsanitary sewerage and water systems, poor quality food and limited health education.
Improvements in public sanitation, health and medicine have seen lower death rates and longer life expectancies. As enhanced living standards meant we began living longer, cancer and heart disease became our most common causes of death.
The latter part of the 20th century witnessed substantial advances in medical treatment, which reduced the impact of these diseases and further increased Australians’ life expectancy.
Given mounting pressures on governments to assist an aging population, more Australian families are taking the support of elderly loved ones into their own hands – and this is where it pays to do early homework.
Illness, disability or the passing of the years can make it difficult for you or your loved one to maintain an independent lifestyle.
The ideal is to remain in one’s own home for as long as is reasonable and safe, but knowing when independence is no longer feasible is the difficulty.
Your first step is a visit to your doctor to discuss your or your loved one’s situation. If necessary, your doctor can refer you to an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT).
The ACAT consists of appropriately qualified people usually based at a local hospital. They can visit the elderly person in their home and, following a government-approved guideline, assess how much and what type of care may be required.
Levels of Care
Prior to 1 July 2014 care options included in-home care, and low or high level residential care. Since then the two levels of residential care have been replaced by a single level providing standard accommodation and personal services. Residents pay for optional additional services.
Planning and Preparation
Statistics forecast an increase in the percentage of people requiring some form of Aged Care in the near future – a challenge for any government. Consequently, future generations may not have access to current levels of government subsidies.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a man now aged 65 could live to be 84 years old – a woman could see 87.
While Australians have embraced the concept of self-funded retirement, we evidently need to start considering those decades beyond.
Could your superannuation support you for twenty-plus years – including funding the level of aged care you might need? Could you afford the additional expenses if your partner remained in the family home while you moved into an aged care facility?
Living long enough to receive a letter from the Queen is one thing – affording it is another!
It’s all in the planning.