When Barry Ridge, 87, was diagnosed seven years ago with Lewy body dementia his wife Edith, 87, and family knew that his care needs would steadily increase.
For several years they managed in their home of 25 years with four hours a week of professional help though a government-subsidised Home Care Package.
But as the symptoms of memory impairment, Parkinson’s, hallucinations, slurred speech and shuffling took their grip on the former Uniting Church minister it became increasingly difficult to provide the constant care he needed.
Daughter Alison Ridge, 54, describes the past 12 months as a roller coaster ride where every day they were presented with new challenges. Her mother was physically and emotionally exhausted.
“We could put his walker in front of him and he’d see it as a hedge trimmer. He’d need to go to the toilet but would have trouble remembering there was a toilet let alone where it was,” Alison says.
“It got to the stage where the only way we could manage Dad at home was for me to give up my nursing job and move in with Mum and Dad. I wasn’t prepared to do that and my family wasn’t keen either,” she says.
The dementia type means that Barry is mostly aware of what is going on, even if it isn’t 100 per cent clear.
They discussed as a family the point at which they would look at residential care before finally making the move a week before Christmas. A lot of tears are still being shed.
“It has not been an easy decision and it is not something we are 100 per cent OK with, but it is the right decision for Mum and Dad. At the end of the day it was not being fair to Dad to not give him the care he needs,” she says.
“As soon as I heard there was a 32-page Centrelink form I went for the professional help. It is such a minefield, ” Alison says.
So how do you choose an aged-care facility?
It often depends on your needs. Do you need high-level care or low-level care? Do you need a facility in which you can move from low-level care into high-level care?
The Federal Government funds and accredits most of Australia’s aged care homes. Government-funded homes may be run by religious and community organisations, private enterprise and state or local government.
These types of home provide two levels of care high-level care (these are nursing homes) and low-level care (these are hostels).
High-level care is for people who need 24-hour nursing care, perhaps because they are physically unable to care for themselves or because they have advanced dementia.
Low-level care is for people who need some help with daily living. Although they may need assistance with dressing, eating or washing, most will be able to move about on their own.
Two types of care is offered in residential aged care facilities: permanent care, where care needs are tailored to an individual no longer able to live at home; respite care for temporary, short-term care in a residential aged care facility to support both older people and their carers to live at home for as long as possible.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 7.8 per cent of the Australian population aged 65 and over were in residential aged care in 2013-14.
Permanent residential care is provided on a user pays basis, with the accommodation costs and care fees dependent upon which residential facility you move into, how much income you have, the value of your assets and the services you take up.
Respite is available to ACAT approved individuals for up to 63 days a year.
What About The Cost of Aged Care?
All residents pay a basic daily care fee and may also be asked to pay a means-tested care fee and an extra services fee.
How people pay the accommodation charge depends on what assets they have outside the family home such as other property, shares or savings. The means-tested care fee is calculated on a person’s income and assets that they disclose to Centrelink. There are limited ways to reduce these.
A rule change effective since January 1, 2016, means there may no longer be a financial advantage for people entering aged care to keep the home where they have been living and fund all or part of their accommodation costs in the aged care facility through rental income.
What If An Ageing Parent Moves In With An Adult Child?
Where an adult child agrees that their parent moves into their home may seem like a good way to avoid the cost and complexity of an aged care facility. But this scenario can also be fraught with danger.
If a family arrangement is not thought through correctly, set out below, are some of the unexpected outcomes can be:
- The older person is disadvantaged enormously in being left with little or no means to go elsewhere or even to consider paying a bond to move into an aged care facility, if things don’t work out.
- The pension is unnecessarily affected by failing to get legal advice and think through the legal issues.
- The child who undertakes the care ends up being demonstratively worse off.
- The older person is happy and content with the arrangement as is the child who is carrying for the older person, but inadvertently other children miss out under the Will because of a lack of careful planning.
- The child who cares for the older person is accused of taking advantage of the older person and is shunned by other members of the family (this can often be avoided by a more transparent approach and consultative approach so facilitated by a solicitor who has a working knowledge in elder law).
Here at Mitchells Solicitors, one of our areas of specialty is elder law. If you have any questions about the care of an older person, or if you suspect elder abuse, contact us for a free, 10-minute phone consultation.