How can you help to care for you aging grandparents or your parents whilst they are still in their home? With the changes made to aged care legislation in July 2014, the Government as part of these changes, will be offering improved support and care at home for the elderly. There are however, some steps you can take to share the load with your family to assist your parents.
- Prepare in advance. Usually, the problems associated with aging don’t come on all at once. Your mother or father will gradually lose the ability to function. When this starts to happen, take action. Don’t wait until the last minute, as you will be left with less choice and long waiting lists. Encourage your parents to have their wills drafted. Get a power of attorney so that you can make decisions, if needed. Create a master document with a list of important accounts, account numbers, passwords and who to contact in an emergency. It only takes a little work to gather this information when your parents are healthy, and it can save a lot of headache later on.
- Define roles and share the load. It’s important that everyone is transparent and across all decisions so no one feels they are being left out or becomes resentful feeling that they are given more tasks than another sibling. Not everyone can (or should) help in the same way. For instance one child could organise appointments and assist with completing documents and forms. Another child may take charge of home maintenance and appliances and another may help with meals, routine chores and keeping an eye on your parents. If your family works together to draw on each person’s strengths, it’s easier to help your aging parent.
- Advocate loudly. Nobody cares more about your family’s situation than you do. There are doctors, case managers and social workers to assist, but ultimately it’s up to you to act and research on behalf of your parents. Be assertive, because no one will care and act on behalf of your parents as much as you do. Ensure that management of your parents legal, financial, medical and social matters are in hand.
- Check for resources. No matter what your situation, there are resources to help. But you may have to spend hours — or days — looking until you find the help you need. Ask around and check websites. Try goggling for instance ‘Help and support services for older people and their families’. Your parents may qualify for assistance such as access to Commonwealth funded residential care, residential respite, Community Aged care packages etc, but you will need to organise an ACAT assessment first, so contact your parents family doctor to get the ball rolling. Even if you don’t want (or don’t qualify for) government help, there are places that can point you to private companies that can help.
- Communicate. Your aging parent can wreak havoc on family dynamics. Siblings need constant, clear and transparent communication. It’s hard to get your head around your parent is no longer looking out for you, roles are reversed and you need to be there and look after them.
We remember our parents the way they used to be and want them like that again. The reality is, they will only deteriorate and need more help and assistance over time. Working together as a family, and doing what is best for our parents is our ultimate goal, so it’s never too early to take those initial steps to care for you parents whilst they are still at home.