The perception of aged care, for many people, is that it is “the end of the line”. Which is why most are rather skeptical and reject talking about it. Older adults want to keep their independence, while the children want what is best for their parents – which may be care that they are unable to offer them. It is important to talk about aged care together as a family, especially before something drastic happens and the choice gets taken out of the family’s hands.
An important first step is getting them involved. Involving your loved one as much as possible in the discussions will make sure they don’t feel as though their life is no longer in their control. Having an open and honest conversation with your loved one about the concerns you have noticed, safety risks as well as your own personal fears about them being in their own home without additional support is important. The earlier you can raise your concerns before crisis occurs the better. However, we appreciate this is not always possible and of course you know your loved one better than anyone. So choose the right moment as soon as the opening arises.
Raising your concerns and opening up difficult conversations about additional care or even moving into a nursing home isn’t often something that rolls of the tongue. Let’s take a step back and imagine you are them – a senior needing care. How would you respond to someone telling you that you needed more support? How would you best respond to their suggestions? It may help you consider the best way to approach them.
If you’ve ever been in a position where someone has made a decision for you without your consent, for something that had an impact on your daily life, it no doubt felt as though control was taken from you.
When the elderly reach a point of needing additional care, one of the biggest causes of distress can be due to their sense of a loss of independence and choice. If this is the initial conversation and the need for care is not urgent (by that we mean there are no immediate risks) then make it clear to your loved one that the purpose of this conversation is simply to clarify their preferences about the future, rather than to force any decisions on them.
Where possible, try not to let your loved one or feel threatened, or feel as though you are making decisions behind their back. This is where open communication can avoid these negative feelings for your loved one. Reassure them that you will be there to support them as much as possible, and that any decisions you make are because you love and care about them.
Some older people may have an expectation in their own mind that one of the children or spouse will take care of them no matter what the circumstance. Now this may be the case for some people, or you certainly may start out that way. However over time, and the longer you are in a caregiving role, you may find it begins to become too much for one person. You will get to a point in time when you feel you can no longer continue either alone or at all. Let your parent know if caring for them and juggling your own life commitments becomes too unmanageable.