Clients transitioning into old age shouldn’t be making decisions in isolation, says Aged Care Steps director Louise Biti.

In fact, when it comes to making conscious decisions about how a person should be living and being cared for in their later years, the family should be involved so that “consolidated decisions” can be made.

Biti, whose company helps provide advice professionals aged-care consulting and educational resources, says these decisions are about more than just planning an income. Speaking to Professional Planner at the 2018 Best Practice Forum in Sydney, Biti said:

“It is a mixture of issues because it is about where you want to live, what sort of accommodation [you want], what the expectations might be of the other family members around you, the nature of their relationship and whether they’re happy to shift to a caring relationship or want to keep it as a family relationship.”

The question of whether family members are willing and able to become carers for an extended period is crucial one for all concerned, Biti says. While the welfare and concerns of the older party are paramount, the needs of the rest of the family must be considered because of “the stress it has on those family members”.

“There are so many implications in this, and that hasn’t even addressed the issues around powers of attorney and estate planning, so it’s a complex area,” Biti says. “Clients need to think about what’s most important to them, and also engage the people around them, to get that consolidation.”

Planning and pre-planning

The role of the adviser in aged care is to help clients – and often clients’ parents – accommodate an extended life. Doing that, Biti says, requires “a lot of planning and pre-planning”.

“I think we forget that throughout life our needs will change and we’ll become more frail,” she says. “We’ll need to save and provision for that.”

Having enough money is obviously a core component of that planning, she says, which means also being aware of what the client’s spending habits are, and what they may be in the future.

“Have conversations with clients a lot earlier around having capital adequacy,” Biti says. “We need to know what real expenditure will look like as we age and what their personal preferences are.”

In this, again, the family as a group may need to be involved.

“It’s important to have those conversations with the client, but also then bringing the kids in so that, as a family, they can make quite consolidated decisions,” Biti says.

Tahn Sharpe is a Sydney-based financial services journalist with a background in financial planning. He writes on advice, superannuation, investment, banking and insurance issues, is a certified SMSF Adviser and holds an Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning.
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