More than 60 per cent of older Australians would strongly prefer to ‘age in place’ by staying in their own homes, according to the Housing Decisions of Older Australians report released in late 2015 by the Federal Government’s Productivity Commission.
The report also revealed that many of these same people were reluctant to plan or get advice for future care and end of life needs, leading to a situation where aged care decisions need to be made following a health crisis when they are at their most vulnerable and families are at their most stressed.
While having a conversation about ageing and frailty is not always pleasant (especially when considering aged care), it can be a necessary way for families to plan for current and future service needs. It’s a good chance to look into the various aged care options available and start the ball rolling on paperwork such as appointing an enduring power of attorney, completing an advanced health directive, updating wills, organising ACAT assessments to check eligibility for home care packages and getting financial and legal advice.
According to Nick Loudon, Seasons Aged Care Group Chief Executive Officer, many families want to support their loved one in their wish to stay in their own home, however as advanced age leads to increased frailty, the reality of what it takes to support an ageing loved one can start taking a toll on families.
“While it is not something that a lot of people feel comfortable to admit, caring for older relatives can become a great source of stress, particularly for those in the so-called sandwich generation who find themselves caring for older relatives at the same time that they still have care responsibilities for their own children,” says Mr Loudon.
“This can lead to some family carers feeling burnt out, resentful and in some cases feeling like spending time with their loved one becomes one more item on the ‘to do’ list, rather than an enjoyable time to connect and catch up.”
While many older people can successfully remain living at home with support from home service care providers and family members, for some the level of support they require becomes unmanageable.
“Even for those that are coping in terms of personal care, the potential loneliness and social isolation from living alone can also become a factor and can end up affecting mental and physical wellbeing. There are currently up to 90,000 elderly people on the My Aged Care waiting list for home care packages at their assessed care level, with many receiving funding and care at a lower level than they require.”
While staying in their own home is considered the most idyllic place to grow old for many, Mr Loudon says there are other options that offer ageing in place, allowing residents to maintain their independence while getting the support services and care they need.
“Many families find the idea of aged care upsetting and uncomfortable, but it’s important to know that there are options available that are different from traditional nursing home facilities, offering a more home-like environment,” says Mr Loudon.
“Communities such as Seasons are a relatively new model of aged care that allow residents to live in the comfort and privacy of their own apartment, while personalised care comes to them. Lifestyle activities are also offered, allowing residents a chance to socialise and take part in leisure activities that interest them.”
“Options that focus on ageing in place with on-site support can allow families to spend quality time together and be as involved as they want to be in their parents care with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their day-to-day support needs are taken care of by professional care staff.”