as appeared in The West Australian – Your Money, 16 September 2019

For many retirees, the biggest concern is can I stay at home? Is my home still suitable? Should I move and if I do, where do I go?

To stay or to go, What to consider when deciding.

By Brenda Will, DLP Life Design

Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder famously said ‘home is where the heart is’.

As an aged care financial adviser, the word ‘home’ is one of the most frequently used in my conversations with clients. As we grow older, for many retirees, the biggest concern is can I stay at home? Is my home still suitable? Should I move and if I do, where do I go? These are challenging issues to navigate. The right answer is different for each of us and will change as we age. However here are some important things to consider.

If you stay in your current home you need to carefully consider, is it ageing-friendly? Fundamental features of your home may make it appropriate or highly inappropriate to live in into old age. Not just lack of stairs and wide doorways, but also sensible storage, easy to use kitchens and bathrooms, low maintenance everything and so importantly, a lack of clutter can all be critical considerations. As said by Marie Kondo the famous Japanese author and declutterer ‘tidying is the act of confronting yourself’. So, ensuring your home is ageing friendly and appropriately de-cluttered can be a difficult, and often avoided confrontation for us all. Much loved personal mementos become dust collectors, tripping hazards and problems for our loved ones to sort out when we can no longer do this for ourselves. The importance of decluttering and indeed getting our house in order earlier rather than later cannot be overstated.

If you stay in your current home, can you receive and afford care and assistance as you get older? Commonwealth Home Care Packages can provide great financial support to help us receive care in our own homes. Currently rated from level 1 (lowest level of care) to level 4 (highest level of care) those who are eligible can receive up to $24.07 per day (level 1) to $139.70 per day (level 4) in Government funding to pay for home care. This funding can be used for meal preparation, domestic assistance, bathing, cleaning, shopping, attending appointments, nursing care, supervision and more.

It is wonderful to live in a country where Government funding will assist us to receive care in our own homes. However, the challenge is getting the funding (the Home Care Package) to begin with. You require an ACAT (Aged Care Assessment Team) assessment to qualify for a home care package, and as has been well publicized, you must then join the lengthy National Queue (of over 120,000 people to 30 June 2018) whilst waiting for a package to become available. Many retirees are waiting for 12 months or longer to receive a home care package.

What does this mean for those choosing to stay at home? We need to be well organised, start the process of applying for home care sooner rather than later AND be prepared to potentially pay for home care privately in the meantime. This needs to be planned for – too many of us assume our expenses will only diminish as we grow older, but it is much more likely for our expenses increase with care costs instead. Setting money aside for this purpose will give us greater choice in retirement and can help us remain comfortably at home if this is what we choose.

Other options for getting assistance at home include the Commonwealth Home Support Programme where a subsidised hourly rate is paid for services, usually for those retirees with lower care needs. And for those who can, receiving assistance from family members, friends and community. Caring for a family member can be a challenging job. Remember that benefits may be available in the form of the Centrelink Carer Allowance ($129.80 per fortnight) and Carer Payment (up to $926.20 pfn but fully means tested). Additionally, carer support groups can be invaluable in providing guidance and moral support for those who take on this often-exhausting role.

But what is home? Is it bricks and mortar or a place to hang your hat? Is it where your heart is? For most of us, home will be many different places throughout life, as our lives and needs change. For retirees, home can be a move to live with family, a move to a smaller more age-friendly home (downsizing), a move to a retirement community (such as a retirement village) or a move into residential care. These can each be good or bad options depending on your needs, wishes, circumstances and preparation. However, doing your research, getting good information, being organised and open to considering all viable options will always serve you well. Indeed “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new” Socrates whether that be in a new home, an old home or otherwise.

Brenda Will and DLP Life Design are Authorised Representatives of Synchron, AFS Licence No. 243313.

The information contained I this article is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser.