The Aged Care Conversation

When Jane Oliver from Sydney’s North Shore said to her son and daughter: “Kids, I know we haven’t talked about what I want for my aged care yet, but I’ve been thinking…” she was a happy, active 65-year-old with no thoughts of getting sick. However, Jane was opening the door to a much larger discussion about topics like in-home care versus residential care, advance directives for life support and estate planning.

As uncomfortable as it is to have these big conversations — or a series of small ones — they are necessary. They ensure that we live out our lives without money worries and that our wishes are followed when we can no longer make the decisions for ourselves.

“It’s much better if we plan for our future care and communicate that with our families,” says Will Holmes à Court, CEO of Private Care. “Everyone copes better if they have this conversation early. When there’s no agreement about how to achieve the best for everyone involved, there’s only stress and confusion. Under the stress of having to make a difficult decision about our care or care for our loved ones, with say a discharge from hospital into rehabilitation or palliative care pending, wires can easily get crossed, wrong decisions are made and the care that is really needed or wanted not received”

Conversations You Might Have

1. Tell them who’s on the team

Give your children a list of your medical, financial and legal professionals. Lawyers and accountants may be required for estate matters, and having your doctor’s advice in an emergency brings peace of mind to your children and a greater understanding over all of your medical needs.

2. Let them know your feelings about life support

No one wants to talk about dying, but this conversation will prevent a lot of heartache and indecision at a crucial time, and the possibility that your wishes are not followed. Palliative Care Australia says that 82 percent of Australians think it’s important to talk to their family about how they want to be cared for at the end of their lives, but only 28 percent do so. The Dying to Talk Discussion Starter gives you tips on how to do this.

3. Make sure your wishes are reflected in your will

If you don’t have a will, what are you waiting for? If you do, ensure that it reflects your current wishes about how your assets will be distributed. Remember that there are good and bad wills. Bad wills leave too much room for interpretation leading to disputes. There is wisdom in choosing a specialist in wills and estate planning. Avoid eroding the value of your estate in legal fees from fighting a dispute.

Families and circumstances change. Appoint an executor and inform your children where the original document is stored. Decide who will hold power of attorney for when you can’t manage your financial affairs. Make sure this person is someone you can trust. To find out more about financial planning for over 55s, go to ASIC’s MoneySmart.

4. Keep on top of the documents

Most of us are not as organised as we’d like to be and we don’t want our children to lose the assets we’ve worked so hard to accumulate. Keep these documents in a safe location:

  1. loan, vehicle and property documents
  2. account details, brokerage and mutual fund accounts
  3. tax returns (in case your will gets complicated)
  4. insurance: health (private and Medicare), life insurance, auto, homeowners, disability and long term care policies
  5. user names and passwords
  6. whereabouts of safe-deposit boxes and key
  7. your will

5. Talk about if, when and where you would consider moving

At some point, you won’t be able to climb the stairs or weed the garden anymore. You may even struggle to care for your own needs. Your family need to know whether you want in-home care or whether you would prefer moving to an assisted-living residence. If you’d prefer to stay put, talk about what supports might you require.

Can you apply for a government home care package or can you self-fund your care? What changes will you need to make to your home so that it is safe and comfortable? To find out how to make your home liveable as you age, go to YourHome.

6. Discuss how you envision your funeral

The more your children know your wishes, the better they can execute them, so talking about your funeral (assuming you want one) can be very empowering. Do you want to be cremated and have your ashes scattered or do you prefer burial? Do your kids know about that burial plot you bought 15 years ago? What about that funeral plan you started paying into?

Having the Aged Care Conversation with a Parent?

What if you’re the child and your parent doesn’t know how to talk about it? The Aged Care conversation doesn’t have to be a hard one if you pick your words wisely. Dying to Talk Conversation Starter and the Discussion Starter Toolkit will step you through the topics and give you a list of questions to make the conversation easier.

The Dying to Talk card game helps you and your parent identify 10 ‘very important’ issues, 18 ‘somewhat important’ issues, and 18 ‘not important’ issues. Create an account to register your parent’s intentions, then print or email them to all family members so that everyone is on the same page.

Conversations like these between parents and children empower everyone. Talking in advance reduces stress at one of the most stressful times you will ever encounter. Why not plan a catch-up today? If you have more questions, call the team at Private Care on 1300 559 260

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