Conversations with your mum, dad or loved one about the idea of residential aged care can be some of the hardest to initiate and ultimately resolve. Unfortunately, in many cases, the discussion arises out of an emergency, leaving family members and those entering care unprepared, emotional and grappling with a myriad of decisions. It’s hard approaching the subject of aged care with your mum or dad.
Having a conversation about aged care before it becomes necessary can make it a lot easier when the need arises. It can be discussed with much love, kindness and respect about your loved one’s wishes and preferences should they need to enter care.
But how do you initiate the conversation? When is the right time? And how do you ensure the conversation goes to plan, communicating good intentions. At Care360 we help families navigate the transition to aged care as smoothly as possible, so we have come up with six tips to help you approach the subject with your mum, dad or loved one to ensure the best possible outcome.
1. Know the signs When Approaching the subject of aged care
Aging parents usually don’t want to burden their children which can mean they are the last ones to see the signs that their parent may benefit from assisted living. Further, parents can be embarrassed or have fears and concerns about losing their freedom and independence so do their best to make sure no-one has to worry about them.
However, there are some signs that can indicate the time may be right to start to talk about aged care options. Most obvious are changes in behaviour. Isolating from friends and family, sleeping more often, not paying as much attention to their appearance. Mum may have stopped wearing make-up and dad may have stopped shaving. It could even be something as simple as not wearing ironed clothes.
This may be because washing is becoming more difficult, preparing meals more challenging and they could be struggling to maintain the home.
Often seniors start to stay home more as public transport becomes too overwhelming and concerns about falls are playing on their mind.
This may be the time to initiate the conversation about getting some extra help around the house. There are stages and levels of care that may be appropriate for this time which doesn’t have to mean going straight into an aged care home.
2. Have the conversation as early as possible
While aged care living arrangements aren’t something we want to talk about, it is best to know your mum or dad’s plans early. The sooner you know their thoughts, the easier to be able to accommodate their wishes when the need arises.
Maybe they would like a certain room type? Perhaps they would like to take a pet? Maybe they would like a specific location? Maybe there are hobbies or pastimes they would like to continue in care if that is possible?
In some cases, the conversation may not go to plan and your mum or dad may feel upset, unwanted or useless – which is normal and best not to take personally. These conversations cause us all to think about our mortality and legacy which can be confronting at the best of times. Think about how you may want to respond to all the possible directions this conversation may take.
Ideally your siblings are involved too, but you do want to be sure that your mum or dad don’t feel ambushed or that it is a “family intervention” – a sure way to derail a positive outcome.
3. Choose the right time and place
Raising the transition to aged care after a bottle of wine and a few jokes at a milestone birthday would be considered insensitive and likely not well received. A well-timed conversation, away from distractions is likely to go down best.
Keep in mind that having a conversation with mum or dad doesn’t need to be formal, booked into a diary or prefaced with “we need to talk”. Having an informal conversation with mum or dad about how they are coping, feeling and what help they need may be enough for them to bring up the subject themselves.
They may just volunteer their thoughts which makes the process much easier for all.
In some cases, your mum or dad may be resistant to discuss aged care at all. In these situations, it may be worth talking with a trusted medical professional like the family doctor. Being one step removed from the family can help take any personal bias your mum or dad may feel and reduce any feelings of rejection and anger.
4. Be understanding and respectful
Put yourself in your loved one’s shoes and consider how you’d want to be treated in the same situation. It’s important to enter this conversation with respect and understanding of what they want in the coming years. Ensure you approach the conversation with compassion and positivity and focus on the idea of increasing their independence, not taking it away.
This conversation has the ability to unite you in ways you never felt possible. If you go in prepared, with good intentions with understanding and respect, you are likely to find it well received.
5. Give options for aged care communities
There are now many different options for aged care available that are a far-cry from the stereotypical nursing homes your parents may be fearing. Once you know what is important to them, sharing some options for aged care may provide mum or dad with a more positive outlook towards aged care.
In most cases, the thought of being more secure, having some help and care without feeling they are imposing on family and friends can be appealing. While leaving behind their family home and neighbourhood can be confronting, if your mum or dad is going somewhere with some additional support, they may find they experience greater freedom, independence and quality of life as a result. Ultimately, it may help them feel more comfortable about the conversation.
The Care360 Quality of Care report can be a useful tool in this situation. You can sit down with mum or dad and enter their preferences to see which aged care homes are identified as a match to best meet their needs.
6. Seek outside support
Everyone’s mum and dad will react differently to conversations about aged care, but this is also an emotional and confronting time for their children too, so be kind to yourself.
Reach out to friends who may have had similar experiences, seek support from your partner or spouse and don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a family counsellor or psychologist who may have some additional tools to help.
Care360 is Australia’s first independent aged care search service helping you find the right aged care home for your loved one. Care360 helps reduce the stress of finding aged care by putting all the information you need at your fingertips with their personalised Quality of Care Report.