Discussing aged care services with ageing parents has its challenges. While some older adults are happy to start the conversation, others might have never thought about their future care needs. Often people perceive aged care as the start to the end and don’t have a solid grasp on what their options are.
Getting your head around aged care doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Becoming informed about the aged care options available in Australia will help you support and guide your ageing parents. With knowledge comes comfort and a reduction in confusion and fear. Here’s some helpful information to get the aged care conversation started with your loved ones.
When your parents get older, they could be eligible to receive government-subsidized aged care support services. To meet eligibility under the current system they’ll need to meet certain criteria. They’ll need to be 65 years or older, or 50 years or older if they identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Also, if they’re a low-income earner, they could be eligible at 50 years or older. Furthermore, they’ll need to be at the point of requiring help and support in order to continue activities of daily living.
To receive aged care government financial assistance, they’ll firstly require an Aged Care Assessment (ACAT). In order to start this process, you’ll need to call My Aged Care (1800 200 422) or visit them at www.myagedcare.gov.au. My Aged Care is the Australian government service that helps ageing Australians and their families to access aged care support and information. It’s the entry point to the aged care system. It’s where you go to arrange assessments and gain information to access aged care services.
Even if you believe that your family earns too much to receive government-subsidized aged care, it’s a requirement that your parents have an ACAT to enter an aged care facility. While that may not be an immediate thought, the time may come when they’re no longer able to remain at home and require additional support.
How to start planning to have the conversation
Before discussing aged care support services with your parents, inform yourself as much as possible about the options available. Speak with your family. If someone already has Enduring Power of Attorney or Enduring Guardianship, consider that person as the primary contact. This could be the person that helps the parents throughout the process. They could support them at assessments, help to fill in forms, and navigate options with them. It’s often a good idea to have one main contact person.
So often life changes suddenly. Your elderly parents were likely going about their daily business one day, and then something happened out of the blue that sparked your concerns. It might have been a fall that required sudden hospital admission, or another issue. While every situation is different it’s common for your parents’ situation to change without notice.
If your loved one requires care urgently and they’re in the hospital, they’ll meet with a discharge planner. A discharge planner or social worker at the hospital is the person who usually arranges an ACAT. There are options to consider if your parents are going to need assistance with activities of daily living to remain at home.
Firstly, if they’re in the hospital, it’s possible that they’ll be transferred to rehabilitation prior to discharge. This is in order to improve their health status and prepare them for discharge. Other people may be eligible for hospital-in-the-home if they need ongoing hospital treatment for a period of time. Alternatively, if they’ve had an ACAT and have approval for transitional care, this is a valid option for support after discharge. You’ll need to book an appointment with the hospital social worker or discharge planner. Discussions with the social worker could include concerns and options to improve and support the health outcomes for your parent(s).
Transitional care supports people that are transitioning from hospital or care, back into their homes. It’s suitable for people that need extra recovery time when they leave the hospital. It allows extra time to look at where the person is going to live in the long term. Transition care is a short-term program. It’s offered in the home or in some cases in a health or aged care facility.
Many people won’t need aged care. But the earlier that you discuss the future with your parents, the more equipped you’ll be to support them if they enter the aged care journey. If the discussion has never taken place, usually a change in health status will be the driving force to discuss future care planning. This could be a change in cognitive ability, mobility, or ability to manage activities of daily living independently.
As a support person, you can discuss matters such as your parents getting their legal affairs in order. Legal matters could include Advanced Health Directives and Enduring Power of Attorney. You could also ask them about their future concerns, and what they foresee their care goals and care needs to be. Would they see themselves as moving into an aged care facility? Or would they see themselves receiving home care? Some parents might envisage finding somewhere where they’d be comfortable to age in place.
Unquestionably, it’s their lives and their decisions to be made. All you can do as their adult child is to support their decisions as best as possible.
Many people will never step foot into an aged care facility. However, it may be the best option for some people who are unable to receive the care and support required to remain at home safely. Whatever you and your parents agree upon, there are many options to support your loved one to remain at home, to move somewhere that suits them better to age in place, to transition from hospital to home, or to make the leap into an aged care facility. Being well informed about your options, and starting discussions with your parents before the need for aged care arises, will ensure you’re prepared and on the same page when moving into the future.
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