Do you have ageing parents? We are all living longer and most of us are faced with the dilemma of how to care for our parents when they can no longer live independently. I was recently asked to collaborate with Aged Care Prepare, to think about this dilemma as well as how we may also face the same situation ourselves or with our significant other.
We want the best care for them, however, there are many options and it can become very confusing finding what option is most suitable for your loved one. Many people also want to stay in their home as long as possible rather than moving to an aged care home.
The Australian Institute of Health & Welfare website reports that:
- In 2017, approximately 3.8 million people (15% of Australia’s total population) were aged 65 and over.
- From 2016 – 17, almost all (97%) people in either permanent residential aged care or respite residential aged care were aged 65 and over.
- The capacity of the residential aged care sector has been gradually expanding: the overall number of operational places available in residential aged care rose from 167,000 in 2007 to 201,000 in 2017 (an increase of 17%).
- Over the same period, the number of people in permanent residential aged care rose from 153,000 to 179,000 (an increase of 17%).
Aged care facilities are not all of the same standard and there have certainly been horror stories of how patients have been treated in some facilities. Currently in Australia there is a Royal Commission into Aged Care to assess the quality of aged care providers.
Aged care services
At 90 years old, my mother-in-law celebrated her birthday, lost her husband of 70 years within two weeks of the celebrations and became so ill she was hospitalised for several weeks. The doctors explained that she would need full-time care which my husband and I could not adequately provide.
Both of my parents-in-law did not want to leave their homes and had a fear of aged care facilities. They had been using a service at home which provided help with shopping, cleaning and nursing if required. However, the situation with my mother-in-law meant that this service was no longer a viable option.
Sorting through the information
Unless you have had experience with or knowledge of the aged care industry it can be extremely confusing for the layperson.
This was something my husband quickly discovered as he tried to arrange a suitable accommodation for his mum.
It was not just finding somewhere that had available beds, it was also finding the right place and working out the financial situation.
This can be extremely stressful as most families will also experience guilt and become overwhelmed because of the complexities in the aged care process.
After two years, we are still working out final details and although I am very happy to say that my mother-in-law has embraced her new life and home, it has been a difficult time for my husband and I which at times, has certainly put a strain on our relationship.
Planning for Ageing
Although I’ve been concentrating on ageing parents it is important to know the options ourselves so we can plan for our own future.
- Be informed. Know what aged care support services are available for your situation and what aged care really means. The Aged Care Prepare website is an excellent starting point.
- Discuss all options with your loved ones. Do they want or need to go to a residential home? What services would they need if they want to stay at home?
- Don’t assume that your parents won’t understand or don’t have an opinion. In the situation where leaving the family home is the only option, the experience can be very emotional.
- Be considerate of feelings and fears. Some people fear moving to an aged care facility and leaving their family home. Take the time to listen to their concerns and help them to understand the benefits for them.
- Visit different aged care homes with your parent/s and chat to the facility manager. Get a ‘feel’ for the environment. When we visited the aged care home where my mother-in-law now lives, we immediately felt comfortable which was very important to her and to us.
- Plan and prepare ahead rather than being put into a position where decisions have to be made quickly. This is then less of a shock to all concerned.
- Be aware of what legal documents will be required to be in place before your loved one becomes incapable of making decisions. These could include Enduring Power of Attorney and an Advanced Health Directive.
Have you had a recent experience with arranging aged care for a parent or significant other? How did you approach the situation and what was your experience?