IRT chief executive Nieves Murray has urged Illawarra families to start investigating options for residential aged care earlier.
Ms Murray said many people began the search for residential aged-care facilities when they were already in crisis mode.
"We are urging people to start preparing for their later years a little earlier, to actually do research and become familiar with what facilities are available a little earlier, so that if and when the time comes, they are better informed," Ms Murray said.
"It's already a difficult time for people making those decisions so you don't want the added burden of worry around how are we going to fund this and where can we go," she said.
"We'd be urging people to ask lots of questions in advance, such as who are the providers and what do they provide, and what is the cost."
Ms Murray made the comments after a conference on ageing in Wollongong last week, at which delegates examined the implications of the federal government's aged-care reforms.
Some of the changes, which took effect on July 1, include changed means testing in residential aged care, new accommodation payment arrangements for residential aged care, and the removal of the distinction between high and low care in residential care.
The conference, hosted by the Australian Association of Gerontology, was held at the University of Wollongong's Innovation Campus.
Ms Murray said the conference covered important topics that affected everyone living in the Illawarra.
"Currently, there are more than 67,700 people, or 17.6 per cent of the Illawarra population, aged 65 or above, which is significantly higher than the NSW average of 14.5 per cent," she said.
"We're expecting an extra 33,000 people aged over 65 to live locally by 2031 so it's extremely important that events like [this conference] highlight how these reforms will shape the way we provide care to the growing number of older residents in the Illawarra."