They’ve cared for us all our lives, but what happens as our parents enter the challenging stage of old age and need support? The oft-circuitous journey of caring for ageing parents catches many of us off guard. We are torn between our desire to help and a deep sense of filial duty along with their need to maintain autonomy.
The Australian population distribution has been changing with an increase of older people aged 65 and over. In the 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics census report it is found that nearly one in every six people (16 per cent) was aged 65 years and over, an increase of 664,500 since 2011. Additionally, in 2016 there were almost half a million people (486,800) aged 85 years and over, an increase of around 85,000 people over the past five years. By 2056, it is projected there will be 8.7 million older Australians (22% of the population); by 2096, 12.8 million people (25%) will be aged 65 years and over.
What does this trend mean for older consumers, their families and the market they engage with? It shines the spotlight on an important contemporary reality because of the projected effect of socio-demographic change upon demand for aged services, and because of the range of personal and economic consequences for both children and elderly parents and the challenges they will face. It generates conversation around a stage in life that can often be overwhelming and confusing.
Two women share the complex moments they realised they needed to source help to figure out what was best for their parents in their twilight years.
“Due to my parents getting older and their health failing, I could see that; the usually manicured gardens were gradually over time becoming untidy, the house was not perfectly clean anymore, my mother was cooking less and my father was no longer able to attend to the general house maintenance. Living away from my parents for some of their later years created worry for me, and I could slowly see their world becoming smaller, and harder. Seeing this decline, I thought it was best to get some assistance for them to enable them to stay in their own home for as long as they could with as much independence as possible.”
“I needed to look for help for my parents as I was watching the deterioration and decline of my mum with dementia. My Dad is a keen golfer and a member of a Golf Club, he wanted to give that up as he thought he needed to be with my mum every day. I knew she was becoming socially isolated and no longer doing the things that she was so very passionate about especially being active in the community, I could see friends were no longer inviting her places and her involvement socially was becoming less and less.”
What Steps should you take?
Watch carefully for signs.
Have you noticed a change? Changes in physical function or mental status, social isolations, neglecting household responsibilities. Paying attention to your loved one’s needs includes identifying the point at which help may be necessary.
Have conversations early and often.
It’s important to understand your parents’ preferences as they age. Respect their autonomy. Don’t make assumptions about what type of care they may or may not accept. Devise a plan of care for them, together.
Do your homework.
Learn about the different types of care and payment options. Be familiar with My Aged Care (MAC), ask friends and family about providers and if they are happy with the services they provide. If your parents are able to make their own decisions for themselves, allow them to.
Start with an aged care assessment.
Before making any expensive long-term decisions, encourage your parent(s) or represent your parent(s) to gain an aged care assessment through MAC.
Being proactive will help you set the stage to be together as your parents age and require help. Someday, you may be comforted to know that as a result of planning ahead, you were better able to provide the best care possible and wisely navigate the caregiving journey.
ComLink has established a local general enquiries line for Home Care and Transport services. Call us on 1300 761 011 and we will walk you through the steps of the options for your loved ones.