It’s not all that often that an elderly parent asks their child to start looking into aged care facilities. The fact is that the decision to move mum or dad into a home generally comes after some sort of physical or mental decline that jolts the family into action. Just what level of calamity it is the family is dealing with can mean that the decision is either a hasty one or an agonising negotiation that takes place over months or years. So, how do you cut through the emotion and make the right decision at the right time?
Aged care worker, Nera, says that children of elderly parents should start the conversation about aged care whilst their parents are still healthy and happy at home. She says, ‘I think a lot of pain and upset could be avoided if there is some honest conversation between parents and children about what the future may hold. I’m not saying you should sign your folks up for a facility at all – but just understand their wishes, talk about the reality of ill health and physical changes that might mean aged care is something that they may have to consider at some stage.’
It’s also enlightening for children to see how their parents view their own ageing and how they see themselves in the future. For Lola and her two sisters, aged care was not on their radar at all. Lola says, ‘It was actually my perception of mum as independent and strong that meant I couldn’t even see her as a candidate for an aged care home! She’d raised three kids on her own and had always been a proud woman. I thought ‘the talk’ would insult her and she’d be upset.’ But the truth was Lola’s mother was desperate for the support and safety that an aged care facility would offer. ‘What I didn’t realise was mum really wanted to be taken care of. Her failing health made her more cautious and less able to manage day to day tasks.’ Lola says.
Juan’s 76 year-old father had a serious fall that precipitated a hasty search for an aged care facility. ‘We were caught on the hop a bit’, he says. ‘While the fact dad was getting older was starting to niggle in the back of my mind, I just didn’t have the mental space to give it much attention.’ That is, until his dad tumbled down an escalator at a shopping mall. ‘My family and I were just in panic mode, talking about who could look after dad, searching for nurses, asking everyone what we should do. I wish we’d had a plan in place ahead of all the drama – we wasted a lot of time investigating options we could never have followed through on.’ As a father of school aged children with a partner that worked full time and a full time position of his own, aged care was the only realistic option for Juan and his family.
For Nera, the aged care worker quoted earlier, the experiences of Lola and Juan are proof that the decision to find a place for a parent at a facility should be part of an ongoing conversation about their health and happiness. ‘Oftentimes it is going to be a health professional that says mum or dad need full time care at a facility. The exact timing of that is the great unknown. It may happen or it may never happen. But spare everyone the distress of making the decision under pressure by starting the conversation now.’