Tips for Navigating Centrelink

navigating Centrelink for elderly parents' care

A huge percentage of Australians belong to the sandwich generation – taking care of elderly parents or relatives while looking after their own families. For members of this generation, trying to allocate time and resources equally is a huge challenge. Dealing with government bodies is another challenge. But it is a reality that you’ll need to regularly work with these agencies, particularly Centrelink, as your parents’ age. One of the key steps in dealing with this government body is to be well prepared and organised, whether your parents need care now – or might do in the future. Here are some tips on the best way to work with Centrelink.

Organise Important Documents

First things first. Help your parents organise their important documents into one folder. These can include:

  • Power of attorney
  • Will
  • Bank details
  • Investment or insurance policy documents
  • Details of pre-arranged funerals, if applicable

By putting all of these in one place, it will make the application process easier when the time comes.

Get familiar with their financial situation.

If your parents have been preparing for old age, chances are they have a financial adviser. If this is the case, ask their permission to meet with, or talk to, the adviser so you can have an idea of their investment history, financial transactions, any government entitlements they might be receiving, and other future estate plans. If your parents haven’t used a financial adviser, try and familiarise yourself as much as possible with their financial situation.

Centrelink needs to be regularly updated about your elderly parents’ circumstances. Are they receiving entitlements such as the Age Pension? Has their residency changed? Are there any alterations in their investments or major withdrawals from their bank accounts? You need to inform the agency from time to time of these changes within 14 days of the variations. To save you from spending time waiting on the phone or endless trips to your local Centrelink, you can request to be granted permission to know the status of your parents’ eligibility. You just have to fill out a form, and you will have your own electronic copies of your parents’ correspondence. This way, it will be easier for you to deal with the agency on their behalf.

To save you from spending time on the phone or endless trips to Centrelink, request permission to know the status of your parents’ eligibilities

navigating Centrelink for elderly parents' care

Knowledge is power

Caring for your elderly parents can be very challenging. We’re lucky in Australia that the Federal Government is committed to providing assistance to make growing old and caring for our elders easier. Knowing that help and financial support are available somehow makes the journey more bearable. Life is all about preparation. As the primary carer, having firsthand knowledge about the support you can get for your ageing parents is essential in being able to provide them with the best care available.

Having first-hand knowledge about the support you can get for your ageing parents is essential in being able to provide them with the best care

Meanwhile, you can relay all this information to your parents, too. That way, they won’t be clueless about what they need to prepare, such as the documents discussed earlier. You can also get help from your siblings or other extended family members. Share responsibilities with them, and discuss aged-care arrangements now. That way, you will be ready to deal with the situation when it comes. After all, it is easier to go about this phase of life when everyone is cooperating and sharing the load.

Everyone’s heard of Centrelink, but not all of us have had to deal with this agency. As a carer for your parents, it pays to know what Centrelink does and how it could help you and your ageing parents. Centrelink is an Australian government agency that operates under the umbrella of Services Australia (formerly the Department of Human Services). It is responsible for evaluating the eligibility – as well as processing the social security benefits – of parents, people with disabilities, the unemployed, carers, families and older Australians. In the case of elderly Aussies, benefit payments include:

  • Age Pension – A retirement benefit for those over the age of 67.
  • JobSeeker Payment (formerly Newstart Allowance) – Paid to those between 22 and Age Pension age who are looking for work and people who are sick or injured and can’t work/study for a short time.
  • Disability Support Pension – For people with long-term illnesses, immobility or disability which prevents them from working. However, this payment is subject to medical evaluation and the same eligibility criteria as the Age Pension.
  • Carer Payment – For someone who provides full-time care to a disabled, sick or aged Australian requiring home care.
  • Rent Assistance – An additional payment to those already receiving payment so they can meet their rental or accommodation requirements.
  • Carer Allowance – For a person providing daily care at home to someone who is disabled, ill or requires aged care.

Each of these payments has specific requirements. Eligibility usually revolves around age, income, residency, medical conditions, work status and assets. Application for benefits can be made online, and the agency will instruct you about other requirements and processes.

Centrelink’s Financial Information Service runs free webinars that might help you navigate the system better.

Learn more here:

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