Aged care conundrum

first_imgIt’s the last thing people want to consider: putting their parents into a nursing home.Paying a bond is one of the most contentious parts of getting a loved one in a nursing home and has many family members in shock when they realise how much is needed.For the children of an ageing population, now isn’t the time to be putting their heads in the sand and avoiding the process.The sad fact is, most people are completely unaware or oblivious to what’s entailed in putting their loved ones in aged care, and only start addressing the issue when it’s too late.For Teresa Buckley (nee Tzimopoulos), she was caught unaware when her mother’s condition deteriorated quickly. She expected that she would only need council help, like meals on wheels or a nurse to help her mother with day to day tasks, but the reality set in when her mother was assessed.“It all happened really quickly,” she tells Neos Kosmos.“Her behaviour was a bit strange. She wasn’t recognising herself in the mirror, she kept on thinking ‘that’s a strange woman’.” When the council got to her mother’s house in Springvale, she was hospitalized the same day to see what medication Mrs Tzimopoulos would need to be prescribed. While in hospital, she was assessed and was deemed to need 24 hour care, meaning she would need to be put in a nursing home. It was something Teresa hadn’t considered would need to happen so quickly, knowing her mother wasn’t keen on being away from her home and wouldn’t take lightly to losing her independence. Her deteriorating condition was sadly the qualifying factor for the change, and something Teresa had to accept in a short time.“It was very stressful, I didn’t really have time to sort of think about it and I had to make decisions very quickly,” Teresa says. “I didn’t even know where to start.”That is sadly where many people find themselves when they have to consider aged care for their parents. Jim Scantsonihas, Fronditha’s general manager of operations, sees people in the same situation on a daily basis, fighting the reality that their parents need professional help while juggling to understand a completely foreign system to get them that help.“Most people don’t pay much attention to it because at the time they don’t have much need for it,” he tells Neos Kosmos.“They’re probably not aware until they get to that point, most people don’t know.”What they are faced with is numerous assessments, the possibility of finding upwards of $300,000 as a bond payment and long waiting lists.Currently there are two different processes to get people into nursing homes: one for low care residents and another for high care residents. New changes that come into affect on July 1 means this distinction will not exist anymore, so all residents must provide a bond payment.Currently only low care residents are asked to provide a bond, while high care residents are subsidised by the government. High care residents need to provide 85 per cent of their fortnightly pension only to be admitted.If high care residents have assets above a certain threshold (currently Centrelink have it at $116,136), they will be asked to pay an additional accommodation charge of $34.20 a day.It works a little bit differently for low care residents. A bond must be paid if the resident has assets above the $116,136 threshold. That means if they have property under their name, or money reserves of more than $116,136, they will need to pay a bond. The amount will be different for every person, depending on how much their assets are worth. So if a resident has a house valued at $550,000, they can be asked by a nursing home to provide a $450,000 bond. As a rule, the government has said that the elderly person must be left with $45,000 in their name.Of course, the bond money is returned to the family or the bonds beneficiaries once the resident leaves the nursing home. The nursing home is allowed by law to draw an amount of $3,876 per annum for the first five years (so a total of $19,380) with nothing further thereafter to upgrade the nursing home’s facilities or for other works. Paying a bond is one of the most contentious parts of getting a loved one in a nursing home and has many family members in shock when they realise how much is needed.For many, selling the family home is the only way to get that kind of money. For Teresa, her mother’s home in Springvale was sold to meet the bond’s demands. But for George Kourounis, he was able to avoid selling his family home as his mother was still living in the home. Centrelink will not consider the family home an asset if a partner, dependent child or carer is still living in the home. “Mum was still alive when Dad needed care, so in situations like that, if the other partner is still alive, they take them on board without having to pay a bond,’ George says. “Whilst mum was still alive, dad was good, staying with her, but things after that changed.” George’s father was admitted into aged care two weeks before George lost his mother, meaning a bond didn’t need to be paid. There are three options for paying the bond and not all mean assets need to be sold. The first way is paying a lump sum, which means for some, having to sell property. The other two ways include paying a monthly interest fee, thereby only having to pay a periodic payment on the bond. You can pay a part lump some, for instance $50,000 up front and then paying the rest as a periodic payment, or the other way is just paying a periodic payment. The periodic payment is based on the Department of Health and Aging interest fee set a 7.24 per cent. That fee for instance could be paid by putting the family home up for rent. Fronditha’s Jim Scantsonihas deals with many disgruntled family members and residents who are quite reluctant to see their assets sold off for a place in a nursing home. “For the Greek elderly, there is definitely a reluctance, because obviously they’ve accumulated assets during their working life, they shouldn’t have to pay anymore,” he says. “Sadly that’s the government policy; it’s not a Fronditha policy.”These processes are just the beginning of what is in store for family members looking to get their parents into care. Many will face huge waiting lists especially for niche nursing homes like the Greek affiliated ones our community expects to enter.For Teresa, she felt she had to put her mother in a Greek nursing home to help her get the best experience possible. “It had to be a Greek nursing home, because mum doesn’t speak English,” she says.“We probably looked at around five (nursing homes) and we also looked at English ones too – non Greek.”Fronditha’s Jim Scantsonihas’ best advice to avoid long waiting times is to put a person’s name on as many local nursing homes as possible and transfer to their first choice when spots become available.“If a client to comes to us and they’re really desperate, we encourage them to place their names on more than one nursing home’s waiting list to keep their options open,” he says. “If they do go somewhere where it isn’t their first preference, they can always transfer across to their main preference when that bed becomes available. At least they’re being cared for and they’re not in that desperate position.”Between 2011 and 2026, Australia’s population of older persons from multicultural backgrounds is expected to increase by over 40 per cent. One in four Australians aged over 80 in 2026 will be from a culturally and linguistically diverse background. The need for ethnically specific nursing homes will be skyrocketing for years to come, and dealing with demand will be one of the biggest challenges for the aged care sector.That is why, being prepared and understanding what is needed from families when a family member needs to enter an aged care facility is a huge commodity. “If you’ve got an elderly person at home and you know you’ll need some care down the track, it’s better to have your name down because there are thousands of people on waiting lists and they can’t get in,” says George Kourounis. Having a talk with the family and finding what options work best in the event that an elderly family member needs to be put in care will save a lot of heartache and financial headaches. For more information, visit the Department of Health and Aging’s website, and the Department of Social Services’ website, Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more