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The only constant in life is change. Here are some simple, practical tips to help you or a loved one navigate the changes in life feeling happy and healthy.
Transitioning to aged care is a challenge for everyone involved.
No one looks forward to a chat with Mum or Dad about moving to permanent residential care, but supporting your parents, or even a spouse, at this important stage of life is a conversation worth having.
While it’s natural for loved ones to feel reluctance, hesitation or even fear about moving into an aged care facility, this major life transition doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Australia’s aged care industry has been growing steadily since 2010, providing a way for older Australians to receive the support and care they need.
With any major life transition, planning ahead can help reduce stress for everyone involved and ensure your parents age well and maintain both a quality of life and a level of autonomy that gives them purpose and joy.
Here are some practical tips to help you support a loved one transition into aged care.
Please Note: Residential aged care is for senior Australians unable to live independently at home. This article will use the term ‘aged care’ as interchangeable for ‘residential aged care’.
Is it the right time to transition to aged care?
Moving a loved one into aged care is a personal decision without a one-size-fits-all approach. Each situation is different so it’s important to understand your options before making any changes to a loved one’s routine.
Taking the time to consider your options will also provide a sense of direction, as the move to aged care can happen quickly if it follows a fall or accident and leave families feeling pressured to make quick decisions.
To help you understand if the time is right to transition your loved one into aged care, consider the following questions:
- Is your loved one still mobile?
- Has your loved one had recent/frequent falls?
- Is your loved one eating well and taking care of their dietary needs?
- Is your loved one able to support their own physical health and hygiene?
- Does your loved one need support to take medication?
Answering these questions will help you gauge how urgent a move to aged care may be.
Signs your loved one would benefit from aged care
Getting old is part of life, but that doesn’t make it any easier having to support your parents or loved ones when they face age-related challenges. There are a range of signs your loved one may benefit from a move to aged care, these include:
Frequent falls – Accidents are the #1 indicator of a potential need for residential aged care. Combined with any pre-existing medical conditions and the 24/7 supervision of an aged care facility can reduce the likelihood of serious injuries.
Please Note: It’s important to be aware your loved one may not tell you about any recent spills, making bruises and scrapes worth a conversation about mobility and the benefits of aged care.
Declining health – A decline in physical and/or mental health may also result in falls, as well as place your loved one at risk. Fatigue or shortness of breath moving around the home may be warning signs that self-care is becoming more of a challenge.
Ongoing forgetfulness – We all forget things from time to time, but if your loved one is forgetting important things like medication or to turn the oven off, aged care is an option to ensure they’re safe and well looked after.
How do you settle someone into an aged care home?
In most cases, the transition to aged care living will be easier when Mum or Dad is involved in the process – including when this transition takes place and what steps need to be taken up to that point. Moving into residential aged care can be confronting, especially after a lifetime of autonomy, so any steps that preserve existing social relationships and individual decision-making will smooth the process.
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to involve loved ones in the transition to aged care. Mum or Dad may be fearful of aged care, or dealing with progressive diseases such as Althziemer’s, making the transition more of a challenge. In both instances, there are numerous strategies that can help support your loved one through this transitional period.
4 Simple strategies for a smooth aged care transition
#1 – Have an open conversation with your loved one
Open and respectful conversations are at the heart of aged care transitions. These talks should happen well in advance of a crisis. If a health crisis or fall has occurred and your loved one is in hospital, you don’t want to be making decisions on the spot.
Pre-planning means having honest, sometimes tough, conversations about how your loved one would like to be cared for as they get older, or should something happen. While fear and hesitation is natural, frame the conversation around the benefits of aged care such as social company, less financial pressure, regular activities and safety.
#2 – Get to know the aged care system
Aged care may sound scary, but meeting the people behind the scenes will add a much needed human element. Take the time to visit aged care facilities and chat with staff and residents. This will give your loved one a window into the possible future, and relieve any nerves or catastrophic scenarios they have in their head.
Change can be confronting, especially for older people, by getting to see the aged care system up close you can reduce any fears your Mum or Dad may have.
#3 – Keep lifestyle as similar as possible
Residential care homes will limit the amount of possessions you can bring in for your loved one, so focus on bringing the most important and sentimental. This could include photos, books, scrapbooks, music or even a favourite chair.
As most Australians are living into their 80’s and 90’s, lifestyle factors should also be maintained, with existing friendships supported and any weekly activities kept a priority. Moving to an aged care facility doesn’t mean changing an entire way of life, but enjoying that life with additional care and safety.
#4 – Share the care
A parent moving into aged care may trigger feelings of guilt or shame. “I’ll never put you in a nursing home” is an often-said sentiment, with the challenges of old-age forcing children to backtrack on their promises. Instead of carrying the burden of care, embrace the services available to you.
The proven way to settle a loved one into an aged care home
As a child or partner, you want the best for your loved ones.
When this means supporting their transition to a residential aged care home it’s vital you know how to tread this emotional journey with care – for everyone involved.
Make regular visits, encourage your loved ones to be social, and take advantage of personalised health care services that promote health and wellbeing. It’s also important to keep an eye on your loved one’s health and attend regular catch ups with their GP. Evidence shows regular reviews of health improve wellbeing.
Generation Care is committed to making it easier for older Australians to access personalised allied health services and support. Contact our friendly team on 1300 97 95 93 or fill out our contact form to arrange a one-on-one consultation for further support.