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Remember the fable about the grasshopper and the ants? While the grasshopper spent the whole of summer chirping away, the ants were busy storing food. When winter came the ants had plenty to eat while the grasshopper went hungry.
It’s a great story about the virtues of saving and the importance of forward planning. Acting like ‘ants’ and saving money for cars, holidays and homes has helped generations of Australians get ahead and take control. Yet, the opposite is true when it comes to prioritising our health and independence. Here the saying of ‘fit your own mask first’ is much better applied.
A generation of savers, people receiving Home Care often feel that they should hold onto their entitlements in case they need them further down the track. Rather than having a carer come in to provide much-needed assistance with washing, cleaning or cooking, they bravely soldier on alone so they can keep some Home Care credit in the ‘bank’.
This is a totally commendable sentiment when it comes to the financial lessons of life, but it is one that puts older people at home or in aged care at risk of injury and, ironically, loss of independence. Just as saving up the medication your doctor has prescribed would be dangerous, saving up your Home Care entitlements means that you are missing out on prescribed care which is designed to make you safer, comfortable and more independent.
Here are five reasons why making full use of your home care entitlement now makes better sense than saving it for later:
The very purpose of Home Care packages is to make it easier for elderly Australians with varying levels of care requirements, to live independently in their own homes longer. To qualify for a package, you will have undergone an assessment through My Aged Care of your level of physical and mental health and living circumstances. The level of care and support you are assigned reflects what qualified professionals believe you need to continue living independently. The expectation is that you will use this money. It is there for you to spend.
While it is challenging to change the habits of a lifetime, and to accept that you could do with some extra help, there are enormous benefits from inviting others to step in and carry some of the load. You may be able to hang out heavy washing or give the bathroom a thorough clean if you take your time and don’t mind enduring a little pain to get it done, but there are other ways to stay physically active, engaged and independent. Why waste that energy and effort on tasks when you have a home care package to assist you? That is false economy. Plan, instead, to meet a friend, take the dog for a walk, tend your garden; by letting your Home Services Carer do the heavy lifting, your independence can flourish. Your flowers too! Getting assistance for those difficult tasks reduces the risk of injury to you and will enable you to carry on with the things you can do independently. Remember, support may be in helping you manage daily tasks, activities that enhance your day, or could be some simple home modifications to tailor your living areas to your specific needs. Accessing help is not surrendering your independence – it enhances it. Your goals should be as individual as you – just let us know how we can help.
If your circumstances change and you move into, say, residential care, any Home Care subsidy credit you have accrued goes straight back to the government. You’ll never get the chance to use the credit you so carefully saved up, or to enjoy the services and facilities to which you could have had access. Similarly, if you pass away, your family isn’t entitled to claim any of your remaining subsidy. Again, it just goes straight back to government without benefiting you or your family.
Home Care service providers are businesses and typically need to charge customers administrative fees for things like managing your package, generating your statements, and paying invoices on your behalf. Depending on your package and provider, you might also be paying a case management fee and client contribution fee. It makes no sense to be paying fees for a service that you are not using. The flexibility of home care entitlements delivered under the current “consumer directed care” model means there is so much choice on what your package funds can be used for and recognises that help and support looks different for everyone – ask your provider to talk to you about the range of services available.
Why don’t you recapture your wellbeing by arranging assistance for you to engage in recreational activities that are special to you and bring you a sense of joy? Life is still meant to be lived and lived to the full. You might want to participate in a social club, lawn bowls, tending to a raised garden bed, assistance with cooking to entertain a friend or the family, a visit to the library, or a new hobby. Why not? You could even access a therapy programme to keep you agile for longer. Wouldn’t you prefer to focus on participating in these things, rather than proving you can still scrub the tub? Set your goals, think broadly about what will add the most value to your days and ask your Care Facilitator to help you work out how to get there.
Home Care entitlements are designed to help people just like you live long, healthy and fulfilling lives in your own home. Your home is not an ant hill, spend now and make the most of your entitlement, and your life.
If you are unsure of what Home Care services are available to you, get in touch with your trusted care provider and arrange for a meeting to explore the options available to you.