Navigating aged care
Most who have been exposed to the aged care system will tell you that it is a challenging experience. And the nursing home question – finding and funding the right care for older relatives – often ends up as the solution.
A recent Financial Review article (How to navigate the aged care maze afr.com ) clearly illustrates why this is such a difficult issue. But the biggest issue is not what the article is about. The real issue is that the article, like much of the commentary on aged care, disguises an inconvenient reality.
The inconvenient reality
Few of us really want to live in a nursing home for the rest of our lives. The problem is that there are few other options, available today.
Behind the commentary are two further problems. Firstly there is an assumption that as we grow older we all become dependent and need to be looked after. Consequently the nursing home question is just a matter of time.
Secondly, it is the industry itself that is promoting the current arrangements. We know that the number of people over 65 years predicted to increase significantly in the next 20 years. By propagating the current reality (and stifling any real alternatives) the the industry is betting that consumers and families will put pressure on governments to increase the funding for the existing aged care model.
The article also demonstrates that so-called government reforms are just tinkering with an aged care system (and applying user-pay to fund it) when it needs a radical reform.
Even on today’s trends, less than 10% of people over 65 live in a nursing home. Most of us would prefer to live at home, and we should consider affordable options that make this possible.
In the future it is likely that only those people who cannot look after themselves at all, or who are a danger to themselves or others in independent living, will need to access the high level of care found in residential aged care. Society won’t be able to afford more than this.
Increasingly, as we, the baby boomer generation, observe the experiences of our elderly parents and confronts our own ageing, we will challenge and reinvent how we live as we live longer.
What might the future look like?
Emerging technology will either entrench existing approaches, or help build supportive local communities and encourage new approaches. These will go beyond current aged care offerings and deliver better social outcomes at lower cost to the public purse. This will depend on what kind of future we want and can afford.
This is why the Living Better Conversation is important. Together we need to identify what we want. Only then can we usefully discuss how we achieve this. If we don’t know what we do want, we depend on others to decide this for us. And the track record of governments and self interested groups is not promising.