It’s natural to think you are invincible when you’re in your 20s, but too often this thinking keeps going well into our 70s and 80s.

The truth is it makes a lot of sense to plan well ahead for how you want to live the last years of your life and start making plans for aged care.

Too often there’s an abrupt health incident or accident that thrusts the issue upon you – or your children – and there’s no plan in place.

Sourcing aged care is a complicated process and it stands at the intersection of money and emotions – so it makes sense to plan ahead, understand a bit about how the system works and have a conversation with your family as to what you’d like to happen.

Have a think about the following areas:

1. Type of care

There are all sorts of care levels – from occasional house cleaning and food preparation to in-home care packages or full residential care. Each of these have different fee structures depending on your needs.

Care can be bought privately, but as most can be quite expensive there are government subsidies available. These are based on:

a) An assessment of your needs from a health perspective.

b) The availability of services – there could be a waiting list for the services you want.

c) Your existing assets and income, which may affect the amount of government support you need.

2. Eligibility

If you think you need help now, the starting point is your GP, who can order an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) report. Get used to the acronym ACAT – their assessment is the basis for your future eligibility.

It is vital that you are able to make an informed plan with your family about your aged care before you need it – not after.

3. Information

The My Aged Care website is a great information resource. It explains everything from the process of getting aged care to availability and price comparisons of retirement homes in your area.

4. Centrelink and your investment

Of course, as well as the right aged care solution, you have to know how you are going to pay for it, and what effect this might have on your pension benefits.

For example, if you are moving into retirement living, should you sell your home or rent it out? How is deeming (Centrelink’s assessment of income from your financial investments) affected?

Find a financial planner who specialises in this area, because it’s likely too complex for you to work it out on your own.

5. Other resources

Contact your local government, volunteer organisations like Carers Australia or aged care consultants such as Millennium Aged Care – they are all great avenues for adding to your knowledge and understanding.

Okay, there is a lot there to consider here, but it is vital that you are able to make an informed plan with your family about your aged care before you need it – not after.