For a growing number of Australians, aged care is less desirable than ever before.
Exclusive data from Australian Seniors reveals 43 per cent of Australians aged over 50 who were surveyed for the 2021 Mindset Shift Report say the pandemic has changed their view of aged care.
The survey also revealed almost 80 per cent of Australians aged over 50 are worried that they aren’t saving enough for retirement.
A quarter say they struggle to pay everyday bills, and 10 per cent will delay their retirement age due to COVID.
For many of the seniors at the Blue Suede Shoes Dance School in Gosford, New South Wales, staying at home as long as possible is the goal.
“I do know a little about aged care, had a look at a retirement village, thought that’s not for me,” Gwen, 84, said.
Carmen, 74, said, “It depresses me. That’s why I do all the dancing.”
Graham, 68, said, “If you can, stay in your own home, that’s my advice to everybody.”
‘We probably don’t prepare enough for it’
In Leura, in the Blue Mountains of NSW, retirees Kristen Krippner and Jim Garvey made the decision to have Kristen’s 91-year-old mother Joy live with them to avoid having to go into aged care.
Joy Krippner was diagnosed with early stage dementia two years ago.
It was a decision the family made after seeing Kristen’s dad go through what they describe as an “unnecessarily rapid decline” in aged care.
Jim says that situation gave the family some insight into the importance of understanding the financial side of aged care.
“I think you have to talk about finances in aged care, because it is a big part of how you retain control of the process, rather than be forced to take the only option that seems available in a time of crisis,” he said.
“We were probably a bit on the back foot because it happened unexpectedly.”
As with many families, when it comes to care in later life, tough decisions, both emotionally and financially, are often made during a time of crisis.
Economist Nicki Hutley, whose father and step-father were in the aged care system, said, “I think it’s one of those things that we tend to push to the side and then suddenly it’s upon you and you’re going, ‘Oh my gosh, how am I going to handle this?’
“We probably don’t prepare enough for it.”
‘There’s going to have to be a substantial increase in funding in aged care’
When it comes to the financial side of aged care, how much you pay depends on individual circumstances — like what kind of help you need, what provider you go with, the services you receive and how wealthy you are.
The daily fee, paid directly to your aged care home, is about $50, or nearly $20,000 a year. That helps pay for things like meals, cleaning and laundry.
There’s also a means-tested care fee, which can be anything up to around $250 a day.
Then, if you can afford it, you’re also expected to pay for your room. You can either pay this as a lump sum amount, which gets refunded when the room is vacated, or make daily payments, or a combination of both.
The Federal Government is currently considering the Retirement Income Review, led by Mike Callaghan.
“One of the things that Callahan determined was that there is a lack of understanding of the extent to which the health system and the age care system is subsidised by government in retirement,” Senator Jane Hume said.
“And that potentially is one of the reasons why people are reluctant to draw down on more capital in retirement, because they fear that they might get sick, or they might need to go to aged care. And they don’t understand, because the systems are complex, just the extent to which they can rely on the government to help them with that.”
Ms Hutley also says a lot of people don’t have the choice to get a government-funded place.
When it comes to funding the aged care system, a total of $27 billion was spent in 2018-2019. More than 75 per cent was paid by the taxpayer, around 20 per cent by recipients of aged care.
“We all know there’s going to have to be substantial increase in funding in aged care. Very substantial increase in funding,” Mr Callaghan, who was also chief of staff to former treasurer Peter Costello, said.
“But it’s not just funding, of course. People want to see better quality in how those funds are being used.”
Keating suggests HECS-style loans for home care
In September last year, former prime minister Paul Keating laid out to the Aged Care Royal Commission his suggestion for a HECS-style post-paid system for home care to help address waitlist issues.
This would mean the government could advance loans to an aged person to pay for care.
If the elderly person doesn’t have any money, or there’s nothing in the estate, under Mr Keating’s proposal, the Commonwealth would pay for it.
“In other words, it’s a contingent loan just like HECS. Like in a HECS loan, if a young person gets a degree and then never works, the loan’s not repayable. The same would happen with aged care.”
The Future of Retirement, a four-part special presented by Alan Kohler, continues tonight on 7.30. Watch it on ABC TV or iview.