General FAQ’s

Through Heather Hill Pathways, you can get compassionate, practical, impartial advice from people who really understand all the dimensions of aged care.

Here are some common general questions about our services.

Heather Hill Pathways Other Providers
Are you Impartial & Independent?

We don’t receive cash incentives from any retirement village or aged care provider, so we aren’t influenced by anything other than the best fit for our client.

Yes No
Are you partnered with the best aged care industry professionals?

By being the first placement consultant to recognise the range of professional services required in later life transitions, we were able to partner with the best-of-the-best in law, financial planning, counselling, mediation and home relocations.

Yes No
Do you receive cash incentives for referrals (from either Pathways Partners or Aged Care Facilities?)

We don’t receive cash incentives from our referral partners (eg. financial planners, lawyers, counsellors, mediators, home relocation professionals), so we only refer to those we know will provide the best service, and only when we honestly believe you will benefit from it.

No Yes
Do you know the actual nurse ratio & care levels at hundreds of facilities?

Our partner organisation Heather Hill Nursing Agency has provided agency nursing staff to hundreds of facilities over the past 15 years, which gives us an unparalleled insight into facilities and information on care provision.

Yes  No
Will I have a dedicated Registered Nurse with 15+ years experience in aged care manage my services?

We know the value in having a facilitator with a strong clinical background and experience in the aged care sector. All our Pathways Facilitators are Registered Nurses with a minimum of 15 years experience in residential aged care.

We don’t provide our services solely over the phone, and you won’t ever have to deal with anyone other than your assigned Pathways Facilitator, who knows your unique situation.

Yes No
Do you charge ongoing membership fees?

We know that when we get the right plan in place the first time, there isn’t a second time.

No Yes

Our phone lines are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so that you can call when you need to.  When you contact us, your call will be answered by one of our friendly team, who will take some general details and find out what kind of information you’re interested in.  They will then arrange for your personal Pathways Facilitator to call you back at a time convenient to you.

Your Pathways Facilitator will spend time talking with you about your concerns and needs, offer some insights, facilitate any immediate referrals requested, and arrange a time to meet with you, if that’s what you’d like to do.  There is no charge for this phone advice.

Using our integrated services has many benefits for families.

  • Instead of making countless phone calls to try to get the information that you need, you only have to make one — to us.
  • Instead of getting conflicting advice from different people, some of whom may be affiliated with particular commercial organisations, you get objective, impartial advice from our team of expert aged care organisations.
  • Instead of trying to understand lots of different written information, some of which may be out of date, you get up-to-date, reliable information, explained in person, in terms that you can understand.
  • The experts within our team of Pathways Partners specialised organisations take a holistic approach that considers the whole person, and all aspects of their life – physical health, emotional wellbeing, finances, and legal issues.  Collectively, the nursing, financial, legal, counselling and mediation professionals work with elder Australians and their families to find the best aged care solutions for each individual.

Using Heather Hill Pathways will leave you feeling confident that you have explored all your options properly, that your family is receiving any subsidies, benefits or services you are entitled to, and that you have made the best decisions possible under the circumstances.  It will give you peace of mind.

We’re well-aware of the financial strains facing many families, and we strive to make our services affordable while also giving you access to reliable, high-quality advice and support.

Full-day carer-training sessions start from under $300, while “Pathways” family meetings range from $440 (for an individual) to $550 (for a couple).  Hourly rates are available for some services, and we will give you an up-front cost estimate for any service that you’re considering.

For more information on the value of our services, please feel free to Contact Us (24 hours, 7 days).

Nursing FAQ’s

When you or someone you care about starts to have difficulty managing daily tasks at home, or experiencing more serious health issues, it can feel daunting.  There are many organisations involved in assessing, arranging and providing care.  Finding the right care and how to get it can be confusing.

However, help and advice are available — and, with a bit of planning, it is possible to find good support that meets your family’s needs.  Often the right nursing and health care can help an older person stay safely in their home and give other family members peace of mind.  It can also provide much-needed support to family carers.

Heather Hill Pathways Facilitators are aged care specialist Registered Nurses, who help you to:

  • identify and access in-home support and nursing care options
  • find the right out-of-home care facility if necessary
  • access carer support and training.

Here are some common FAQ’s that our nurses answer.

In order to access many aged care services or aged care accommodation, you need to obtain an assessment from an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT).  These teams are government-approved and are often based in public hospitals or community health centres.

An ACAT Assessment needs to be requested by your loved one or yourself assisting them through the government My Aged Care department.  Once requested through My Aged Care a request will be sent to your local ACAT team who will schedule an appointment with your loved one.

During the appointment a member of an ACAT team will visit an older person, assess their care needs and provide you with a copy of the assessment.  An ACAT Assessment is the approval required before an older person can access aged care services funded by the Australian Government.

Our nursing team can give you important advice about the ACAT Assessment and My Aged Care request process.  This advice forms part of the Pathways Family Meeting, which is included in many of our Services.

Please note: that you do not need an ACAT Assessment to access a Commonwealth  Home Support Program (CHSP) package.

  • Lifestyle Retirement Villages (formerly over 50s communities) provide purpose built accommodation catering for those who do not require any nursing assistance.
  • Low Care Facilities (formerly known as Hostels) and Care Retirement Villages  provide purpose built accommodation and low levels of personal care, such as help with dressing, showering and occasional basic nursing care.  Low Care Facilities are quite rare now-a-days as they are being replaced by Retirement Villages with on-site care provision.
  • High Care Facilities (formerly known as Nursing Homes) provide a high level of care for people with greater frailty who require continuous nursing care.
  • Extra Service Facilities generally provide a higher standard of accommodation, services, food and recreational activities in return for a higher fee.
  • Respite Care is a service offered by many providers that supplies short-term (planned or emergency) accommodation and/or care for those who intend to return to live in the community. The care can be provided in the carer’s home, at a day care centre or in residential care facilities and can be anywhere from an hour to several weeks (or even months in certain circumstances).

The federal government contributes to the cost of residential care by providing some funding directly to each aged care facility for each occupied bed.  However, it also requires residents to contribute to the cost of their care.

1. Basic Daily Fees

These contribute towards daily living costs such as nursing, meals, linen, heating and electricity.  They are made up of two parts:

  • Basic Daily Care Fee which is a set fee all residents pay which is currently 85% of the aged care pension
  • Means-Tested Care Fee is paid by residents who have a higher income or assets than the government mandated tests

2. Refundable Accommodation Deposits (RADs) and Daily Accommodation Payments (DAPs)

These payments contribute towards the cost of your accommodation and were formerly known as accommodation bonds or charges (although they worked quite differently).  The price of these payments is set by each individual facility for each bed and is usually commensurate with the average local property value.

You can choose to pay for the cost of accommodation through a lump sum (a Refundable Accommodation Deposit) or a daily payment (a Daily Accommodation Payment) or a combination of the two.

The Daily Accommodation Payment (DAP) is calculated on whatever the amount of the unpaid Refundable Accommodation Payment (RAD) is at a set government interest rate (currently as at 1 October 2016 it is set at 5.76% per annum).

Importantly any amount you pay as your Refundable Accommodation Deposit (RAD) will be exempt from the calculation of your pension entitlement; however it will be included in the calculation of your assets when determining your means-tested care fee.

Finally if you do not have enough money to pay the listed Refundable Accommodation Payment amount you may qualify as a low-means resident if your assets and income are below the government mandated thresholds.  Low-means residents don’t pay the accommodation payment but instead a reduced amount.  They also still have the option to pay either as a lump sum (a Refundable Accommodation Contribution), a daily payment (a Daily Accommodation Contribution) or a combination of the two.

Possibly.  You may be eligible for financial assistance such as the Carer Allowance or Carer Payment through Centrelink.

You can determine your eligibility for these assistance packages by contacting Centrelink on 131 021 or online at

We can also give you more advice about these benefits at a Pathways Family Meeting, which forms part of many of our Services.

For those seniors who are still living at home but who need help with daily tasks to remain living independently, the Australian Government has two types of subsidised home care:

  1. Home Care Packages Program:
    • a case manager helps you understand the systems and work out a care plan
    • you decide how to spend the funding you get, rather than choose from a men
    • once you have a package, it stays in place for the long term and can be increased as your care needs increase.
  2. Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP):
    • you choose from a set menu of services – there isn’t much flexibility
    • only pay for the services you use
    • you can dip in and out of the program as you need things
    • used for low level support
    • often for short term interventions.

There are four levels of Home Care Packages for different levels of care and support needs.

  • Level 1 – basic care needs
  • Level 2 – low-level care needs
  • Level 3 – intermediate care needs
  • Level 4 – high-level care needs.

Most clients will start on a Level 1 or 2 package, which are increased as care needs increase.  Each level receives a different amount of government funding.  The higher the level, the more funding the government pays on your behalf.

To determine if you are eligible for Government subsidised help at home, you will need to go through the following steps:

  1. Contact the Government’s My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 or visit (or arrange for your Doctor to do this)
  2. Have an initial phone interview with a My Aged Care representative
  3. You will be referred to an assessment team – either:
    • a Comprehensive Assessment with an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) for a Home Care Package; or
    • an entry-level care assessment for Home Support with the Regional Assessment Service.
  4. Assessment will be done in person to determine your support needs and determine if you are eligible.
  5. You will need to nominate your preferred service provider with My Aged Care (such as Heather Hill Home Care).

Alternatively, if you would prefer someone to take care of the application process, paperwork and phone calls for you (and make requests to accelerate your application), our Staying Home Longer Package is for you.

In-home services can include:

  • nursing care
  • meals
  • home help
  • personal care
  • home modification
  • home maintenance
  • transport
  • social support
  • laundry services
  • shopping
  • bathing assistance
  • support for those with special needs and dementia.

Legal FAQ’s

Making sure that your family’s legal matters are in order is an important part of an effective aged care solution.  Our expert legal team at CRH Law can help you to understand and resolve any legal matters that you face.  In particular, we can help you to prepare the three documents that we recommend for anybody over the age of 50:

  • a will
  • an enduring power of attorney
  • an advance health directive.

Our team has specialist experience in elder life legal issues, and can provide any assistance you may need.

This is a common misconception.  In reality, if you die intestate (that is, without a will) in Australia, your assets are distributed according to a prescribed legal formula:

  • the first $150,000 and your household possessions go to your spouse if you have one
  • the remainder is split between your spouse and your children.

This can cause major problems within families, especially where second marriages are involved or where a parent has already provided monetary gifts or extra financial support to a child/children on the understanding that this will be balanced out in the estate.

In some cases, the lack of a will also means that the family home must be sold immediately and the proceeds divided, because beneficiaries have an immediate entitlement to their share of the estate.

Creating a will with the assistance of an Elder Law expert can save a lot of family turmoil down the track.

An Enduring Power of Attorney is a document that enables you to appoint a person or entity to make decisions on your behalf should you lose capacity or have difficulty managing your own affairs.

If you do not have an Enduring Power of Attorney and you lose the capacity to make decisions for yourself, someone would need to apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal before they could make financial decisions on your behalf. It’s much better to have an Enduring Power of Attorney in place so that a person you trust can quickly make the best decisions possible.

It’s a simple process to prepare an Enduring Power of Attorney.  It is particularly important for those who have health issues or are members of self-managed super funds to do so.

An Advance Health Directive allows you to leave instructions about how you would like your health care managed should you lose the capacity to make decisions about it in the future.  Anyone over the age of 18 can make an Advance Health Directive.

It is particularly important if you have a medical condition that is likely to affect your ability to make decisions or could result in serious health complications (for example, diabetes, heart disease or asthma).

We discuss Advance Health Directives during the Pathways Family Meeting, which forms part of many of our Services.

When a partner or other family member is diagnosed with dementia, it is crucial to talk to an expert about the legal safeguards that are available for a person with reduced legal capacity (for example, Enduring Power of Attorney and Advance Health Directive).

These tools can help to minimise any legal or financial problems caused by dementia, by ensuring that somebody trustworthy has the authority to make responsible financial and healthcare decisions.

If a person loses their capacity to make decisions and they haven’t previously prepared an Enduring Power of Attorney, a legal process exists to appoint someone to make decisions on that person’s behalf.  This process is known as ‘guardianship and administration’.

Using this process, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) can appoint an administrator (for financial and legal decisions) and/or guardian (for personal/healthcare decisions) on behalf of a person with reduced legal capacity. The appointed people are responsible for ensuring that the person’s interests are protected.

The guardianship regime is complicated, and you should seek legal advice about any specific issues related to guardianship.

Many families invite older members to move in with them so that they can care for them better.  As well as thinking about the personal and practical impacts of making such a move, it’s also important to consider:

  • What are the income tax and social security implications for everybody?  This is particularly important if there is a transfer of assets or a payment from a parent to an adult child in return for care.
  • Do all family members have a thorough understanding of what a ‘care for life’ promise means?  It could be that, after a proper discussion of what a ’care for life’ agreement involves, you may decide not to proceed with the idea.
  • What impacts might living together have on legal documents such as an Advance Health Directive or Enduring Power of Attorney?

A Family Agreement is a useful way to work through these issues and to identify what financial arrangements (transfer of property or compensation) would apply in exchange for a promise of “care for life’.

While more and more Australians over 50 are moving in together, for some the step can bring unforeseen consequences.  Before embarking on a new living situation, it is important to consider the legal implications for yourself, your partner and your children.

Some important questions to consider are:

  • Does this arrangement affect my Advance Health Directive or Enduring Power of Attorney?
  • What changes (if any) do I need to make to my will?
  • What implications will this have for my social security or pension entitlements?
  • Are there any financial arrangements or promises to my children that will be affected?

You may wish to protect your assets by preparing a Binding Financial Agreement (sometimes known as a ‘prenup’) before you make the decision to move in. It is vital you seek independent legal advice to ensure you are protected from any unforeseen consequences.

Our legal experts have been advising families of all shapes and sizes for more than 20 years, and have the expertise to provide practical solutions for your unique situation.

Financial FAQ’s

A planned approach to your finances can protect your interests and, ultimately, keep more money in your pocket overall.  Heather Hill Pathways’ Financial Planners can help you to:

  • ensure you have dignified and affordable care
  • minimise the cost of care
  • maximise Government entitlements
  • maximise your money to pass across to your loved ones.

Absolutely not!  Even if you plan to stay in your own home, or to live with family, qualified financial advice is a critical part of a comfortable life.

There is much to consider along the spectrum of aged care and many issues and options that most people don’t know about.  For example, did you know that you could establish a granny flat at your child’s home and qualify for asset test exemptions and extra Centrelink entitlements?

Alternatively, you might like to access Consumer Directed Care (CDC) in your own home through the government’s Home Care Packages Programme, or maybe you would like to receive home services through the Home and Community Care program.  Making any of these decisions will have financial as well as lifestyle impacts.

Perhaps you want to enter a retirement village or park and want to know more about the deferred management fee, or to clarify the difference between a leasehold agreement and strata title ownership.

Aged care is complex.  Seeking specialist financial advice early will help you to get a clear direction and give you peace of mind about the strategy that’s right for you.

Sometimes selling your home is the right decision, but often there’s no need to sell the family home to enter aged care. In fact, selling this major asset can frequently can make your financial situation worse. You may be able to keep and rent your family home indefinitely if you:

  • pay at least part of an accommodation payment by periodic payment; and
  • rent out your former home (e.g. rent it to a family member for a nominal amount).

For two years from the date you or your partner move out of your home, your former home is exempt from the assets used in calculating your pension entitlement.

The simple answer is yes, but be aware of the consequences.  The rules around gifting for aged care are in line with pension rules around gifting (deprived assets). Any gift you make in excess of $10,000 in a financial year and $30,000 in the five years prior to entering care will be assessed as an asset and deemed to earn income.

The actual fees of an aged care facility will vary for different residents.  However, the kinds of fees are generally as outlined below:

  • Refundable Accommodation Deposit (RAD)
  • Daily Accommodation Payment (DAP)
  • Basic Daily Care Fee (BDCF): covers day to day costs such as meals, laundry, cleaning, heating and cooling
  • Means-Tested Care Fee (MTCF): contribution towards cost of care which may be payable depending on your assets and income (subject to annual and lifetime caps)
  • Extra-Services Fee: any amount agreed between the resident and the facility including but not limited to a glass of wine with dinner, pedicure or manicures etc

An accommodation payment is a lump sum payment to a facility for entry into residential aged care.  The accommodation payment is government guaranteed, therefore the balance of the accommodation payment less and fee deductions will be refunded to the resident or their estate on termination of the agreement for residential services.  Any amount of RAD you pay will be an exempt asset for the calculation of your pension entitlement.  However, your RAD will be included in the calculation of the means-tested care fee (MTCF).

You can choose to pay for your accommodation through a lump sum (known as a Refundable Accommodation Deposit or RAD), a daily charge (known as a Daily Accommodation Payment or DAP) or a combination of the two.

Accommodation payments are subject to a market price and aged care facilities must publish the price of their accommodation payments on the government My Aged Care website and in their brochures.

Accommodation payments are almost always negotiable.  As part of many of our Services, we can help secure the best outcome for you and take the burden of dealing with negotiations off your shoulders.

There are three types of residents:

  • Low means
  • Moderate means
  • High means

Low means residents are people that are eligible for a full government subsidy towards their accommodation and care.  A person is determined to be low means if their assets are below $47,500 AND assessable income is below $26,072.80 (single) or $25,604.80 each (partnered) per annum.

Moderate means residents are people that are eligible for government subsidy towards the cost of care which is determined by a calculation based on assets and income.  If the calculated amount is less than the accommodation supplement (currently $55.09 per day) the person may be eligible for government subsidy towards their cost of accomodation.

High means residents are people that have assets and income above the calculated amount.  If the calculated amount is less than the accommodation supplement (currently $55.09 per day) the person is not eligible for government subsidy and pays the market price advertised by the facility.

Home Transitions FAQ’s

A planned approach to the relocation of your loved ones will reduce the stress levels of all involved and get the best outcomes for all involved.  Our Golden Years home transition professionals can help you to:

  • preparing the family home for sale (cleaning, decluttering, minor repairs, garden maintenance and presentation advice);
  • picking the right real estate agent to maximise the sale price of the home (based on sound statistical data and one-on-one interviews with potential agents);
  • arranging stress free packing, moving and unpacking by experts senior movers;
  • disconnection of utilities and redirection of mail;
  • re-homing of pets (sad, but sometimes necessary).

All the personnel at our Home Relocation professionals, Golden Years, recognise that each individual’s situation and circumstances will be different.  Because of this Golden Years offers a free one hour initial in-home consultation to meet your family, understand your personal situation and determine what services they offer that might be of value to you and your family.

To be clear there is absolutely no obligation on you to use any of their services at all after this meeting.  Accordingly, we often recommend this option to our clients as a first step when they are considering relocating to a retirement village or care facility.

Cameron and his team have worked in the aged care industry for years, they understand your decision and the challenges and emotions you are going through.

They are real estate agents, but they are not ‘just’ real estate agents.  They aim to take care of the entire process for you to reduce a lot of the work and stress involved and allow your family to support each other through what can often be difficult transitions.  They are specialists in helping people through this transition – this is all they do – day in day out.

Golden Years make their income from sharing the standard agents’ commission when your home settles with the real estate agent that you have chosen (usually from their extensive selection and vetting process).  They do not charge anything above the REIQ normal commission.  Thus their regular service will not cost you a cent extra than if you were to go directly to a real estate agent that charged the normal REIQ rate of commission.

They do use a bank accredited valuer to appraise the realistic price for your home and you will be asked to pay the valuer directly for this at the start.  This costs about $500, depending on which valuer you choose.  However, Golden Years will refund all $500 to you when your home is sold using Golden Years real estate services.

Bank accredited valuer reports are different to real estate agent appraisals.  A valuer’s report is an independently sworn document attesting to the value of the home; whereas an agent’s ‘appraisal’ is little more than an informal estimate on what they believe they can sell the property for (or in bad situations what they think they could quickly sell the property for).  Subsequently the valuer’s report is a lot more rigorous and realistic.  An additional bonus is that potential buyers can rely on the valuer’s report when obtaining finance from any of the major banks.

No.  Golden Years will also conduct an analysis of your local area for similar homes and agree with you on the price to list your home at.  The valuation provides a robust guide to include in this analysis but in no way sets the price by itself.

If you want to use any of our additional services Golden Years will discuss the exact costs involved when they meet with you in your home.  All of their additional services are provided by trusted and vetted service providers who specialise in their particular area of expertise.  Golden Years will manage the entire process and liaise directly with these service providers on your behalf (including resolving any potential issues if they arise).  For these management services and ongoing vetting processes Golden Years charge a flat fee of $275 on top of the service providers quote.

Yes.  Whilst we often cannot help with the sale of your retirement village home (as this is often managed by the local sales consultant within the retirement village) we can assist with removalists and any other additional services you may require and general advice.

Counselling FAQ’s

Different people have different experiences as they move through changes in life and circumstances. Some people move through with ease, while others face difficulties and turmoil.

Often this is determined more by the level of stress that a person faces, and how much support is available to them, than it is by their individual personality or qualities.

Changes in the care arrangements for a loved one can generate complex feelings for those close to them.  Feelings of anxiety related to a change of role, possible helplessness, and grief and loss (for the life that has changed) can have a negative impact on family dynamics and on the person being cared for.

Counselling can provide a forum for you to process your emotions privately and deal with your life situation better.  It can give you an opportunity to be supported as you deal with these challenging times, and to gain some skills to help you manage your responses to your current situation.

No. Grief at any stage of life is part of evolution. In some ways, life’s journey is also a journey of grief and loss.  Each change necessitates a leaving behind of some things in order to encompass the future.  In dealing with the care of the elderly, all family members have a capacity to suffer from grief and loss.  The processing of these emotions can make a difference in the way that people face the individual challenges in this journey.

People come to counselling for help with a range of aged care issues. Some of the most common revolve around carer responsibilities, transitions into higher levels of care, and dementia.

Carer responsibilities

People have a range of reactions when one family member becomes responsible for caring for another.  Typical reactions include:

  • carer fear and anxiety about having total responsibility for someone
  • denial of the situation by the carer, the person who needs care, or other family members (that is, a desire not to accept the need to act differently)
  • anger from either the carer, the person being cared for, or both, about the situation in which they find themselves
  • guilt from family members who aren’t in the carer role.

Counselling can help all parties to identify, share and deal with these emotions better.

Transitions into higher levels of care

Making decisions about how and where an older person should be cared for can bring up very strong emotions.  This can be even more complex if extended or blended families are involved.  Again, counselling can help various family members come to terms personally with the decisions that need to be made.


Dealing with a family member with dementia is a challenging daily task.  In fact, it is almost a ‘moment by moment’ task.  Counselling can support carers by helping them to develop strategies to deal with the behaviours that are part of dementia and to accept conflicting feelings and emotions.

Under federal government legislation, clients who are referred to counselling by their doctor are eligible for substantial Medicare rebates on 6–10 counselling sessions each year.

To qualify for this, you will need to visit your GP and ask them to prepare a ‘mental health care plan’ for you. The plan is confidential between you, your doctor, and your psychologist. This procedure was introduced so that more Australians could have access to affordable counselling.

If you (or your loved one) has a Home Care Package, counselling may be covered by the Home Care Package.

Alternatively, you may pay privately, in which case the cost is $125 per session.

Mediation FAQ’s

Aged care issues can be complex, and it’s common for family conflict to arise around them.  A qualified and experienced mediator can help you to resolve any disputes and find workable ways to move forward.

Many people don’t know a lot about mediation and have never participated in a mediation session.  The following information answers some of the most common questions about mediation.

Families come to our mediators for help with a wide range of issues.  The most typical issues tend to fall into six broad categories.

Residential decisions

Preconceived ideas about in-home and residential care, combined with feelings of guilt about moving a parent unwillingly from their home, can be powerful drivers for conflict. And adult children living far from home may not fully understand the need for any change in living arrangements or services.

Financial decisions

How will money be spent or invested and who will manage it?

Medical treatment decisions

Slow, progressive diseases like dementia can place an enormous strain on the family unit.  Proper processes and plans need to be in place to ensure that the timing of decisions is clear.

Estate planning decisions

Adult children often worry about how much of an estate will be left to them but are seldom able to openly acknowledge this important interest.  Mixed with this, many parents make assumptions about what their children expect from the estate, and can build plans around these frequently faulty beliefs.

Inheritance disputes

Pre- or post-death feelings about assets may explode when a family least expects it. It’s critical to have a process in place to prevent siblings from fighting over small and large items.

Sale of home and asset disputes

Disputes often arise when there is a home or vacation property in an estate and adult children are discussing who might live there, whether a property (or other assets) should be sold, or where the money should go.

Adult sibling disputes

Current decisions about older members of the family can often be contaminated by long-simmering sibling issues.  Statements like ‘Mum loved you best’ or ‘Your lifestyle is crazy, so I’m hardly going to take your opinion into account’ are not uncommon.

Not every family needs mediation, but, in our experience, many families can benefit from at least one mediation session.

In our experience, most families fall into one of four broad categories when it comes to dealing with aged care issues.

Perfect Planners (about 1% of families)

This family looks the issues in the eye very early on, does targeted planning and has very effective communication. They get legal and financial advice early and make reasoned, timely, and harmonious decisions. They also manage their elder’s physical decline with dignity and respect.

Successful Strugglers (about 20% of families)

This family has one or two major issues to work through, but they manage to come to a perceived positive outcome with the support of friends, family and advisors. Whether it is dealing with a stubborn parent or an adult child who is experiencing inequities in care-giving commitments, outcomes are successful and the family feels mostly comfortable with the decisions reached.

Bruised Battlers (about 78% of families)

This family isn’t in crisis, but there is a sense of discomfort about the decisions being made. Disagreements may often be festering under the surface and some members may feel alienated. Relationships between the children and parents have also usually grown worse.

Lawyer Lovers (about 1% of families, thankfully)

This family (or several members within it) feel the need to resort to litigious solutions to resolve their issues. Inter-family communication has usually been completely destroyed, along with any relationships between siblings and/or their parents. The estate can also have been significantly reduced.

While Bruised Battlers and Lawyer Lovers are most in need of mediation, we have found that the first two categories of families often also benefit from one or two mediation sessions.  They can use these sessions to help them decide how they are going to make the tough decisions when they come along (e.g. will all decisions need unanimous support and, if not, what will the alternatives be?).  These sessions also usually result in agreements about how information will be shared and communication rules to guide further family discussions.

Very few families fall into the ‘Perfect Planner’ category.  Because of their very nature, aged-care decisions can easily lead to long-term conflict if discussions are not facilitated by a qualified and experienced mediator.

In our experience, factors that significantly increase the chance of such conflict include:

  • the involvement of multiple parties in nearly every decision — more people equals more opinions, which can make it far more difficult to reach a consensus
  • previous misunderstandings, superstitions, prejudices, relationship conflicts, disagreements, and a lack of accurate information
  • waiting too long to make decisions — without clear deadlines, families often wait too long to make decisions and are put into ‘crisis mode’ decision-making, which often results in very poor outcomes for all involved.

Mediation reduces conflict and stress by helping family members to look at the issues objectively.

A qualified and experienced mediator facilitates discussion, helps to remove entrenched positions, and allows the family to consider everybody’s underlying concerns and feelings in a collaborative, fair and empowering manner.

Our mediators manage the process, providing a safe space for family members to face disagreements, hear what is important to each of them, find common ground, and brainstorm creative solutions that meet everyone’s interests and preserve family relationships.

Mediation and counselling are similar in some ways, but the key difference is that mediation has a different aim from counselling.

Counselling aims to address the emotional distress experienced by family members and parents as a result of dealing with later-life issues.  In contrast, mediation is a process where a neutral  independent third party person assists the parties to resolve the issues themselves, which are often causing the emotional distress, using a facilitative process.

Heather Hill Pathways - Navigating the Aged Care Maze