The secret to finding the right aged care facility? Try before you buy

Feb 01, 2019
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All aged care facilities are not the same, and a hospital bed isn't the best place from which to choose one. Source: Getty

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has kicked off and there are shocking stories of abuse and substandard care being reported. For people who are considering aged care, be it for themselves or a loved one, these stories are adding a lot of stress to an already stressful decision, with many asking how they can sure of choosing the right aged care facility.

My advice is to try before you buy.

How do you do this? By utilising a service called respite care. Respite in an aged care facility enables you to have one or more short-term stays in an aged care facility, with the total stay up to nine weeks each financial year. So, you could have three stays of three weeks or two month-long stays.

Generally speaking, a stay of at least two weeks is a good idea, so you or your family member can settle in and really get to know whether the food, activities, other residents, staff and — most importantly — the care are appealing. Of course, respite is also a great way to give carers a break and, in any case, at the end of the stay you or your loved one may decide that it’s not the right time make the move to an aged care facility.

Respite is also very affordable, as there is no accommodation charge or means-tested care fee, you just pay the basic daily fee of $51 a day. If the facility provides extra services such as Foxtel, beer or wine with meals, or hairdressing, there will normally be an additional fee for that.

Respite is a great service, but unfortunately many people miss the opportunity to try before they buy because they don’t plan ahead for aged care. Many people enter an aged care facility after a hospital stay, at the end of which they are advised that they can’t go home. At that point, the person is asked to provide a list of five or six facilities that they would be happy to move to, often within a couple of days. As a result, their first experience of an aged care facility is a permanent move.

So, what if you do move in and you’re not happy?

For a whole host of reasons many people feel that once they have chosen and aged care facility, they can’t leave. It may be because their former home has been sold, hundreds of thousands of dollars may have been paid as an accommodation deposit, or the simple fact that moving is a big change for someone who is in failing health. But the fact is that you can choose to leave aged care at any time, whether it’s to move to another facility or to return home.

If it’s the money you are worried about, it’s important to know that any accommodation deposit will normally be refunded to you on the day you leave or very soon thereafter. From the day after you leave the facility, the facility must pay you interest on your lump sum at 3.75 percent per annum, so it is are motivated to return it to you! If the aged care facility provider doesn’t refund your deposit within the legislated timeframe (typically 14 days) a higher interest rate of 5.94 percent per annum becomes payable.

The bottom line here is that if you plan ahead for aged care and try before you buy, you will have the best chance of finding the aged care facility that is right for you – and it sure is a lot less stressful than trying to make those decisions from a hospital bed in just a couple of days. But if you find that you are not happy with the aged care facility, for any reason, know that you don’t have to stay.

Have you helped a family member make a decision on the best aged care facility for them? What factors influenced their decision?

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