How to have the conversation about aged care with parents and loved ones
“Sometimes the most important conversations are the most difficult to engage in.” ~ Jeanne Phillips
Typically, residential aged care is not a concept people like to think about, let alone discuss. However, when a crisis develops with our elderly loved ones and wishes have not been pre-determined, it may force families to make difficult decisions under stressful circumstances.
To avoid navigating the aged care system when emotions are running high during a health crisis, professionals recommend discussing future options with your loved ones sooner rather than later.
This begs the question… how do you broach the topic of residential aged care with your ageing loved one?
Stay calm & have a cup of tea
If you start to notice your loved one displaying some tell-tale signs, it might be time to discuss future options. Perhaps their memory is starting to fail, or you may notice increased difficulty with tasks that would previously not pose a problem. Your loved one may voice feelings of loneliness & isolation or they may be mourning the loss of a partner. At this time it is a good idea to raise the topic gently with your loved one in a calm manner.
Sit down with a cup of tea and try a gentle approach with these questions:
1. How are you feeling about living here on your own?
2. How do you feel you are coping?
3. Is there anything you are finding more difficult?
4. I am here to support you and help you look at support available, would you be interested in this?
5. Have any of your friends moved into residential aged care? What are your thoughts on this?
6. I want you to be in control should you need or wish to move in to a place that provides support. There are some truly wonderful places now that provide the opportunity for socialising and activities in beautiful environments, would you like to have a look at what options there might be?
A trusted health professional, like a community social worker or GP can assist with discussing the topic of aged care. MyAgedCare.com.au can arrange an assessment by the Aged Care Assessment Team(ACAT) for suitability / eligibility approvals for both home care and residential aged care. This approval is known in the industry as the “passport” to aged care. For more information on ACAT assessments and eligibility click here.
It may also be a good time to discuss appointing Enduring Power of Attorney and Enduring Power of Guardianship in the event that your loved one is no longer capable of making decisions for themselves. An appointed guardian must understand a loved ones wishes in order to act in their best interest. Discussing Advanced Health Directive is also important.
There’s no place like home
The thought of having to leave home and move to a new environment can be daunting, with many of our older citizens fearing loss of independence. At The Richardson, we encourage our residents’ independence. We do not believe in dictating how residents should live their life, we simply support a life they want to live, in the way they choose. Nevertheless, most older citizens may wish to stay in their own home for as long as possible. Seeking additional in-home support may ease the pressure on families and assist loved ones whilst they prepare to move.
Home away from home
If staying at home is no longer an option due to health concerns or simply if a resident decides ahead of time to opt for residential aged care and enjoy their remaining years in safety and comfort, knowing the steps to navigate the aged care system can help with selecting the most suited home.
We suggest the following:
1. Ask your loved one what is important to them when selecting their new home? Eg: Is a balcony important? Do they want a single private room or would they prefer a larger personal space (suite / apartment) with a private lounge room and kitchenette? Is food important? Social aspects and activities?
2. Ask yourself & other family members what is important when looking for a new home for your loved one? Is the home convenient to visit? Is it a nice environment for wider family and friends to spend quality time visiting? Is the correct care / support level provided?
3. Discuss locations best suited for you and your loved one. Narrow down a list of homes in your desired locations (ask professionals or friends for recommendations)
4. Ensure your loved one has Residential Permanent and Residential Respite Approval on their ACAT.
5. Book tours with at least 3 homes for comparison (aged care is not a one size fits all – it is a very personal decision and each individual may like something different)
6. It is important you ask as many questions as you can during your tour. If you are not sure what to ask here are a list of questions to ask during your visit
7. Consider engaging an aged care specific financial advisor to assist with the best way for your loved one to fund their residential care.
If you are looking for a light-hearted yet practical guide to assisting talking about aged care with your ageing parents, pick up a copy of the book written by Australian actor & comedian, Jean Kittson, ‘We Need to Talk about Mum & Dad’.
Whilst aged care may be a difficult subject to broach, the search for the right home needn’t be a sad one. Use this time as an opportunity to connect and support your loved one to ensure this next chapter is a happy one full of laughs, love and good company.