How to talk about aged care with your family

How to talk about aged care with your family

How to talk about aged care with your family

“I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.”

“I’m not like those other old people.”

“You’re looking after me, I don’t need extra help.”

Time and time again we’ve heard families say the same thing: bringing up aged care is one of the hardest things to do.

But the truth is, it’s always better to start the conversation about needing residential aged care earlier rather than later - whether that’s a conversation with your children or with your parents.

Hiding a need for extra support doesn’t help. In fact, it can make things much worse. Ending up in hospital because of a fall or another complication could significantly cut time spent at home AND scare loved ones.

Signs you need to talk

Often the first sign that the conversation is due is when you notice your ageing loved one is not coping as well as they once did with everyday tasks. But the signs extend to all areas of your loved ones life including:

  • The laundry basket is overflowing
  • The garden isn’t being looked after the same as it used to be
  • Avoiding chores
  • Missing social events
  • Any confusion or changes in mood
  • Their health is visibly declining i.e. they’re not moving around the house as well as they used to, shortness of breath etc.
  • They’re falling more frequently or there’s evidence of falls such as scrapes or bruises
  • They're not eating as much as they should or their groceries are expiring frequently without them knowing
  • They’re mixing up their medication or they’re not taking it at all
  • They’re asking you for more support than usual

How do you suggest that your parents may need to move into residential aged care?

The biggest barrier to talking about aged care is the loss of independence. Nobody wants to feel like a burden and because of that it’s often easy for us to disguise the truth about how we’re actually doing at home.

It’s perfectly reasonable to feel ashamed, or confronted by how we change as we age. There’s very few people who can deal with that without feeling even a little bit overwhelmed by it.

Firstly, consider where your parents are coming from - the thought of losing their independence may be scary. The thought of leaving their home may be scarier.

You can begin with a question (not an assumption). ‘We feel that you’d like to stay at home, but we’d really love to know what your thoughts are.’ They may have been thinking about aged care themselves - try not to anticipate how they feel about aged care.

Provide examples of how aged care can help

Give clear examples of how aged care can benefit them.

  • Diverse care options including low care, high care, dementia care, respite care and palliative care.
  • Registered nurses and carers on duty 24-hours-a-day
  • Professional hotel services including catering, laundry and cleaning
  • Access to visiting specialist allied health professionals
  • Flexibility to choose your own GP
  • Holistic, inclusive pastoral care, encompassing spiritual and emotional support services available to all residents, regardless of religious, cultural or ethnic backgrounds.

Reinforce that aged care is about them and how it can assist them - make sure you don’t make it about you.

Retirement living

Bring a friend to the conversation

It can be helpful to bring up someone they know and their experience with aged care - a neighbour that has moved into aged care and is thriving. This can help to normalise aged care. Understanding experiences of people they know can make the idea a lot more appealing and put your parents at ease.

Without having these conversations, things can get worse

Take Ann for example....We’ve changed Ann’s name to protect her privacy, but the story is the same.

Ann was adamant she didn’t want or need to get extra support.

But really, Ann just didn’t want to feel like she was becoming a burden.

The breaking point came when Ann had a fall. She’d had a few already (which she hadn’t admitted), but this time was more serious. She ended up in hospital with a broken hip and the doctors said that she must go into care.

Left with next to no options, Ann’s kids were faced with a hundred different decisions since they were unprepared. With Mum unable to move out of hospital, Ann’s kids were forced to make a call on where Mum would live knowing full well that there was a chance she may not even like her new home.

This is a pretty standard story for someone who’s entering into aged care. It’s easy to hide the times we fall or that aren’t living as we normally should, but sometimes soldiering on can be dangerous for ourselves and scary for the people we love.

The solution?

Considering and talking about aged care ahead of time matters. You can get ahead and make clear decisions early on and avoid the unthinkable.

If your loved ones are concerned about leaving their home and moving into entirely new surroundings, you can offer to organise a meeting beforehand with potential aged care homes.

If they are still unsure - aged care doesn’t have to be forever – respite care or a trial can be arranged to see if it does make their day-to-day lives easier.

It can be hard to find the right people to talk about aged care with. Not everyone has gone through what you have and even those who have might have a totally different experience to you.

Call the St Vincent’s team on 1800 736 772 and talk to people that have not only guided hundreds of others through the same things you’re going through, but have probably gone through the process of navigating aged care themselves.