Robyn Massey, Jenni Perkins, and Jill Jamieson, the co-founders of Live Well Longer, are three friends who have come together to share their knowledge and expertise in helping their ageing parents to access services and support to remain living at home.
Collectively they have extensive experience in senior executive roles across government, leading service delivery and policy development across the seniors, community, disability and training sectors.
They have developed the Live Well Longer – ageing at home website and resources drawing from their own experiences and the challenges in interfacing with Australia’s emerging individualised aged care system.
My mother lived at home on her own for nearly eight years. She was relatively fit but had been assessed as having 'mild cognitive decline'. Effectively this meant significant short-term memory loss – or as my mother would say, there was no room left in her brain! Despite this, my mother's quick wit, occasionally profound insight, an engrained diary writing habit, supportive neighbours, and support facilitated through a Home Care Package all contributed to her staying at home.
Into this mix are my three older brothers and myself. While we lived far and wide - two brothers interstate, one brother 20 minutes away and myself a three-hour round trip away - we worked closely together to support my mother’s strong wish to remain at home. This put me firmly in the middle of the ‘sandwich generation’ - balancing the demands of a senior executive role, parenting two teenage children, and caring for my mother.
A public sector career planning and developing disability policy and programs has highlighted for me the fundamental importance of a person-centred approach, and the role of relationships and community connections in supporting a ‘good and meaningful life’. I have brought to the aged care space – and my mother’s care – a strong commitment to focusing on what my mother could do (rather than couldn’t do), and thinking outside the box to help design supports that maximised her independence and respected her strong wish to remain at home.
Up until the end of 2016 my Mum and Dad had lived a comfortable independent life at home; married for nearly 67 years and enjoying managing all of their daily affairs in person. At this time Dad’s health started to deteriorate and he made the difficult decision to stop driving, and with Mum also not driving many of their daily routines needed to change.
At the beginning of 2017 my three siblings and I, together with Mum and Dad, started the journey of re-organising their life to provide the support and care required for them to continue living comfortably at home. I offered to be the key family member to assist Mum and Dad navigate the aged care system.
Having recently stepped out of a senior role in the Western Australian TAFE sector, I felt confident that I had the time and expertise to deal efficiently with government bureaucracies. After hours gathering information from friends and websites, waiting in queues on government information lines and speaking to numerous service providers, I became more and more frustrated and sympathised with older Australians, and their families, trying to navigate the system without adequate time or knowledge of government jargon and processes.
My experiences dealing with government agencies and navigating the aged care system have contributed to the development of Live Well Longer services and approach. I am committed to assisting older Australians and their families to plan and explore the possibilities of living well for longer at home and encourage families to share their stories to build communities where older Australian’s feel encouraged and supported to age at home.
I am one of three siblings who share a commitment to supporting our 95 year-old mum to live the life she wants - as independently as possible, for as long as possible. We grew up in a country town, where Mum and Dad were an integral part of the local community. They helped establish the Aged Care units, assisted with Meals on Wheels (at an age when they could have been receiving them!), played golf, participated in Rotary and stayed fit and healthy.
As Dad was 10 years older than mum, they made the decision at quite a young age to come to Perth to be closer to family. Mum was in her early seventies when they moved into an independent living unit in a retirement village. It was a great move for them - they made friends, went on all the committees, could still have a garden and were free to travel. It also meant that when dad died mum had a supportive family, established network of friends, a meaningful and fulfilling life and a safe and secure living arrangement to fall back on.
Our family’s story has been a positive one. However as mum has aged and her support needs have increased, I’ve experienced first-hand the challenges and frustration faced by many individuals, families and service providers who are attempting to navigate the new aged care system. And, while there is a plethora of information available, it is often confusing and contradictory.
Many years working in the education and disability fields, and most recently as an Executive Director responsible for the development and implementation of the WA National Disability Insurance Scheme(NDIS), have provided invaluable experience in navigating the bureaucracy to get good outcomes for my mum. There is great synergy between the individualized planning, increased consumer choice and control and flexible supports of the NDIS and the emerging Australian Aged care system. I am keen to apply my skills and experience in both systems to assist older people and their families to understand the systems and processes, and plan for a good life as they age.