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Is it time to talk about ageing well with family?

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Published Tuesday 24 December 2019
  • Aged Care
  • Retirement Living

Here’s the scenario: It’s Christmas, that special time when your whole family comes together from locations far and wide for a festive feast at Mum and Dad’s; the home where you grew up. It’s a treasured occasion for parents, kids, grandkids, cousins, aunts and uncles alike. 

It may also be the only time you have a true family get-together with all the demands of modern life. Those two weeks spent surrounded by all the warmth, love and familiarity of the family home are a cherished and highly anticipated annual event.

And yes, you have a wonderful Christmas Day full of all the usual magic you’ve grown to love. But despite the fabulous food and joyous festivities, one less than joyous fact is now undeniable. And you discuss this fact in bed that night. 

“Did you get the same feeling I did?” you ask your husband in the dark.

“The ham was a bit dry?” he replies.

“No,” you say with annoyance even detectable in the dark. “About Mum and Dad.”

“How could I not notice? They’re not the Christmas hosts they once were, and it was tiring to watch them be so tired, yet soldier on. They’re looking very frail. Maybe it’s time for us to run Christmas.”

And that’s when it really kicks in; the horrible realisation that Christmas is far from the only problem here; Mum and Dad are simply not the energetic couple they once were.

Yet it’s impossible to ignore the realities: the unsteadiness on once dancing feet; the deaf ears once quick with a brilliant one-liner; the forgetfulness; and the four-bedroom house now occupied by just two people growing older.

So…

Can your parents stay in the family home?

That’s a tough question with all kinds of logistical and emotional issues. As kids we want to keep that link to the family home, even if only for two weeks each year during the Silly Season. But it’s where we grew up and it’s hard to let it go for purely sentimental reasons.

No doubt Mum and Dad feel the same, but they have other more important questions to answer. Do they want to continue all the cleaning and maintenance required in a home now largely full of empty rooms? Are they even up to the task?

Or is downsizing to a smaller home a big step up in lifestyle? Would they get more out of life in a serviced apartment or retirement village where you can live maintenance free and have someone else do all the work? Or have the advancing years left your parents in need of even more help than that?

It’s a hard conversation to have. As kids there can be a sense of guilt as you’re not there for your parents when they need you most. And for your parents, there is real apprehension embracing major change at a time when familiarity and security matter most.

Yet it’s a conversation we must have as the issues aren’t going away. In fact, the ageing process will ensure an even more urgent conversation if we leave it until next Christmas or the Christmas after that.

It feels daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Australia is blessed with a wide range of  lifestyle choices, be they care in-home, village-based independent living and assisted care, or a residential aged care community.

The first thing you need to decide is where your parents fit in. So, let’s look at each of these options in more detail.

In-home where the care comes to you

Whether you’re a parent, son or daughter, your natural inclination is to gravitate towards some form of in-home care. For a start, this offers the least amount of disruption – no major house moves, no heartbreaking sales of excess furniture, and no fear of the unknown.

But is home care practical? It sure can be and home care packages can be tailored to suit your parents’ general health and mobility. Anything from cooking and cleaning to laundry and lawn mowing can be managed by visiting home care providers.This type of support also includes qualified nurses and carers to help your parents with everything from showering, assistance with medicines to changing wound dressings.

Independent living in a supportive village

Again, we’re lucky to have so many retirement lifestyle choices in Australia.

If your parents are still active and able to look after themselves, an independent living villa or apartment could be the perfect solution. Upkeep is generally low as this is all about low maintenance living and life in a community  allowing your parents to live the lifestyle they want to live.

You’ll find modern villas and apartments ranging from one to three bedrooms. Some come with study, lock-up garages and decent outdoor entertaining areas. Many also offer in-home emergency call systems for extra peace of mind.

Full care in a residential aged care community

If your parents are particularly frail or struggling with ongoing illness, 24-hour care in a residential aged care community may be your best option. Living in an aged care communityensures they receive all the specialised help they need in a caring, supportive environment.

Do consider an aged care community if your parents suffer from such conditions as Alzheimer’s, dementia or any other mind-related conditions. Physical conditions such as arthritis can also be increasingly debilitating without proper care and attention.

Oh, and if your mental image of an aged care community is of bleak, old buildings full of dark corridors and bored, unhappy people, erase it. These days most aged care communities are modern, lively places with tastefully decorated rooms, cheery staff and a decent array of entertainment and activities.

Aged care is now a highly competitive industry and that’s great news for you and your parents. As the standard of care keeps rising to meet demand, the options become more and more appealing.

When it’s time to have that important conversation, you can now do so with less fear and far more hope.

It would also be a good idea to do some upfront research on all the available options in the local area. Your parents might want to stay close to friends and familiar haunts, so keep that in mind when compiling a shortlist. Also consider access to supermarkets, shopping centres and medical centres. Or you might consider a move to be closer to where you live so you can visit in person regularly.

Also remember, facilities and costs vary considerably, so be very mindful of your likely budget.

Whatever you do, you don’t have to do this on your own. Providers offer support both during the decision process and afterwards helping you navigate a system that for many will be entirely unfamiliar. 

For more helpful lifestyle advice, visit our News section. 

For a wide range of Wesley Mission Queensland living options for older people,  visit our Locations or call us today on 1800 448 448