When my parents, in their late eighties and early nineties, needed some additional support beyond what family could provide to remain living independently at home, I offered to help them navigate the aged care system.
So commenced interactions with assessment officers, care providers, allied health providers and government departments. Tasks which I thought would take a few minutes took many hours. Here are some of the lessons I learnt along the way.
Taking the first step is the hardest. Our parent’s generation are often not accustomed to asking for or receiving help, and are reluctant to start the aged care journey feeling that this could lead to a loss of independence. Research shows however, that the right support at the right time can often help older people remain living independently for longer.
When my Dad’s health deteriorated, Mum finally agreed to explore what home support was available and through Mum’s preferred aged care provider help with the heavier cleaning tasks was initiated. This extra help gave Mum more time and energy to support Dad, and when Dad’s needs increased made the transition to higher levels of support much less daunting.
Also, being present during my parent’s government aged care eligibility assessments, such as the ACAT, was invaluable. I encouraged Mum and Dad to be more honest about how they were coping, and where support would make a difference. As I said to my mother – it is not a test that you have to pass with flying colours!
I learnt that it is best not to delay researching what options are available for home care, don’t wait until you have been allocated a government Home Care Package. There is a growing number of aged care providers that provide care in the home and making the right choice can feel overwhelming. The government’s My Aged Care website, www.myagedcare.gov.au, provides a useful search facility, helping you to find and compare home care providers.
Make a list of the questions you will be asking potential aged care providers. Take time considering the supports that will make a difference to your daily life and the things that are important to you about how these services are provided. Having been on this journey with Mum over the last two years, important questions to include are ones that help you gauge how flexible and responsive the aged care provider would be to accommodating unplanned events in your daily life and implementing changes to your care plan as your needs change. Do they have clear and simple ways to communicate with their clients and their client’s key supporters such as other family members or friends. It is very frustrating if you can’t easily access staff to gain information on care rosters, accommodate unplanned events, discuss care needs and provide feedback etc.
It is also important to note that many people are still waiting a considerable time before being allocated a government Home Care Package. Waiting times can be more than 12 months for Level 3 and 4 Home Care Packages. Many aged care providers are now offering privately purchased services. The financial impact of privately purchasing home care support is worth adding to your financial planning for the future.
For more tips, go to Live Well Longer - ageing at home free resource Considerations when choosing a home care provider.
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