Aged Care… ‘And then there was one’.

You may remember a week or two ago I asked the question: Aged Care…Is it really that expensive?

I received one very interesting comment which made me think…how difficult is it for a spouse to remain in their family home after their partner has entered residential aged care?

There are two very important issues that a person is confronted with when their partner (of, in some cases, 50 to 60 years) requires more care than they can give and he or she needs to enter an aged care residential facility.

The first one is emotional. 

The person who remains in the home will now be faced with living in a home which is empty and no doubt a lot colder and lonelier. The only “person” who they have to talk to or listen to will be the television which sits in the corner, or the family pet which unfortunately will also be feeling lonely. Pets do not understand why one of their masters has moved out.

I have lived on the Gold Coast for 40 years and I do remember when I was employed by Social Security   (Centrelink), talking to elderly people who were living by themselves in a unit in one of the numerous high rises along our coast line. Their partners had passed away or had entered a nursing home. They were now 10, 15, or 20 floors above the ground in a very nice unit overlooking the ocean with a beautiful beach out the front. This meant nothing to them now – they were lost, lonely and feeling completely isolated.

They were not prepared for the loss of a partner. In reality, no one ever truly is. It is an emotional and traumatic time and the person who remains at home needs all the support that they can be given. I think sometimes they are the forgotten ones in the case where their partner has had to enter a nursing home.

If you do know someone who is faced with this change in their life, do stay close and keep an eye on their wellbeing. If you have any concerns, please talk to someone who can provide help, such as Lifeline, the Salvation Army, Smith Family or even a social worker from Centrelink. Do not leave it until tomorrow.

The second issue which they may confront is the financial impact.

The person remaining at home is now, in effect, a “single” person whose income has been reduced by 50%. For age pensioners, there is a small offset as your pension would now be paid at the single rate.

For the full age pensioner, this is an increase from $644 per fortnight to $854.30 per fortnight.

And yes, you can argue that the food bill will be cut in half, but all the other costs certainly do not reduce by 50%; electricity, rates, water, home maintenance, body corporate levies and the like will all remain very much as they were when two people were living in the home.

I have also seen numerous cases where the costs of accommodation and care in a residential aged care facility need to be supplemented by the spouse who remain in the home, making their position even more difficult.

Living longer and aged care costs are realities that should not be ignored.

We understand the need to be prepared for retirement both financially and emotionally. In retirement, a person or couple need to be prepared for the reality of aged care.

Make sure that you have an understanding of your financial position and be willing to talk to an expert who can provide a clear picture of your financial reality – especially if the worst does happen.

Secondly, as we have always said; just because you have retired does not mean that you withdraw from society. Remain an active part of your community as the community will provide the best support if the worst does happen.

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