My parents started their aged care journey a little over 12 months ago. Dad was 92 and Mum nearly 90. Dad’s health had been deteriorating for sometime, and he made the difficult decision to stop driving. They were a resilient, independent couple that, in the past, had strongly resisted any suggestions of help or support from the family.
Mum was Dad’s key carer and as his needs increased she was finding it more difficult to cope and was increasingly concerned about her ability to keep Dad comfortable and safe, she was exhausted. My four siblings and I realised something needed to happen. Without transport their life needed to be re-organised. Having just stepped out of a senior public service role, and confident I had the time and expertise to deal with government departments, I offered to help Mum and Dad navigate the aged care system.
I’m sitting in my office twelve months into Mum and Dad’s aged care journey reflecting on the mountain of administrative tasks and time it has taken to navigate Australia’s aged care system. I have spent hours on hold waiting to speak to call centre staff; become frustrated with the contradictory advice frequently given; been bemused by the acronyms and bureaucratic language used by the industry; and amazed at the wait times for government assessments and subsidised funding packages. On the other hand, I have also been humbled by the care and consideration given to my parents by carers and health professionals who have gone out of their way to ensure their concerns and needs were considered. It has been a rollercoaster year!
So what have I learnt along the way. Firstly, I feel we, the family, should have been more proactive in encouraging Mum and Dad to consider their future care needs earlier, hopefully reducing the anxiety and stress of finding solutions during a crisis. Secondly, many of my friends had similar stories of supporting elderly parents and the numerous practical tips I gleamed from our chats were invaluable.
Lastly, be organised! The aged care system generates and requires an enormous amount of ID numbers, contact details, completed forms, permissions, etc. Nothing is more frustrating than after a long time on hold a contact centre officer informs you that they cannot help because they don’t have you as the person permitted to represent that person, or do you have the correct ID number, or some other piece of obscure information, is excruciating!
One of my most useful strategies was to create an electronic aged care diary containing all of Mum and Dad’s key information and IDs. I made the file available online so I could access with my phone or any other device. It is also available to the family members, so if I’m unavailable they have Mum and Dad’s information at their fingertips.
Live Well Longer members can access a sample of my aged care dairy through the Member’s Lounge.