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The last three months have been challenging for my family. Both my in-laws have suddenly needed urgent care, which has seen us frantically navigating the aged care system to sort it out.
The thing is, it didn’t have to be. In retrospect, we should have planned a few things for the future and found out how the aged care system works.
Like me, if you too have older parents, here are 8 things you can do to ensure they have the support they need, well in time.
Start the conversations early
Waiting for a crisis to strike for my in-laws to realise their need for support was our biggest mistake. We had to start the process at the worst possible time.
Talk to your ageing parents about how they plan to cope when things get difficult, before they do. That way, you can get the wheels in motion for aged care support before it’s needed. Conversations need to be had early on and then continue as needs change. Here are some tips to get the conversation started.
Register with My Aged Care
It has been time consuming (during a period when we don’t have much) to get the aged care ball rolling for my in-laws.
Register with My Aged Care and get assessments done as soon as physical or cognitive decline starts. The Assessment eligibility checker on the My Aged Care website is a handy tool to check if you’re eligible for an assessment. That way, your parents will already be set up in the system and can access funding when it’s needed. Also, if your parents are happy, ask them to grant you permission to talk to My Aged Care on their behalf (and register yourself). This is handy if hospitalisation or age-related cognitive decline occurs.
Once it’s clear they are eligible for assessment, an ACAT assessment will be conducted by the Aged Care Assessment Team. An ACAT assessor — likely a nurse, social worker or healthcare professional — will typically visit them to carry out the assessment. Ensure that you are prepared for the assessment.
Know your local aged care services
Since our family crisis happened, we’ve become aware of all the wonderful aged care services in my in-laws’ local area. For example, a community social club, which my 85-year-old father-in-law could have been attending during the day to give my mother-in-law some respite. This also would have been helpful for us to juggle work and kids.
Research council-provided aged-care services, retirement villages, community groups and support workers through Mable, in the local area. There is so much support and information out there.
Sign up with Mable
There are many types of support services you can find on Mable, from social and domestic assistance and personal care, to garden maintenance and transportation. It’s a good idea to sign up to Mable and get familiar with how it works, so that when support is needed, it will be easy for them to obtain.
Set things up so they can stay at home
My in-laws, like most Australians, have wanted to continue living in their own home. Prior to this crisis, they were, but without any outside support. With time, this became harder for them.
Ask your parents if ageing in place is what they also want. If so, then encourage them to think about what support they might need to help them do so. A cleaner? A gardener? Someone to take them shopping, perhaps? Having at-home support means they are more likely to be able to stay at home for longer.
Sort legal matters sooner rather than later
Thankfully, my in-laws had things like enduring power of attorney and enduring guardianship documents already in place. This has been helpful to us at this time.
Ideally, legal documents should be established long before they may be needed — and when all parties are sound of mind. This could even be decades beforehand.
Understand the financial side of aged care
Sorting the financial side of things was one of our biggest stressors. For my sister-in-law, meeting with Centrelink and an aged care financial adviser has helped.
Ask your parents to fill you in on their financials (if they are happy to). If receiving the aged pension, authorising you to speak to Centrelink on their behalf is helpful if they find this overwhelming.
Look into other living options early
While my in-laws were happy living in their home until recently, my mum-in-law wishes they’d moved sooner. She wasn’t able to manage the stairs after her fall, and single level living is what was needed.
Look into living options well before it’s time to move. Community-style retirement living or residential care may not suit everyone, but it’s good to have options. Many retirement villages also have waiting lists.
About the author
Lana Hallowes is a freelance writer and mum of two boys, who are growing up much faster than she’d like. She loves writing for Mable and is an advocate for inclusion, being hearing impaired herself and living in a neurodiverse household.