Anyone who’s watched an elderly loved one struggle with tasks they used to find easy has had the same thought cross their mind: is this the point at which home care would help? That then leads to lots more questions – and the same ones tend to come up for most people.
Nick McDonald, founder and CEO of Prestige Inhome Care, knows all too well what those questions are because he’s heard them thousands of times from people he’s helped find the right care for a much-loved spouse, parent or grandparent. The biggest questions tend to be around the timing and type of care, the answers to which are personal to each client and their family. But McDonald says there are some pointers that can act as a guide, no matter what the particular care requirements. We recently sat down with him to discuss some of the key concerns around in-home care. Here’s what he had to say.
Timing is different for each individual case, but as McDonald says, when it comes to having those difficult conversations, sooner is always better.
“I’m not sure there’s a 100 per cent right time, but we know when the wrong time is and that’s when you’re in the midst of a crisis,” he says. “Our advice is don’t wait until you’re in a crisis until your loved ones had a fall, or you realised they really are at their wits ends. Have the conversations earlier while they’re still really independent, because then you can actually have that conversation in a really calm, relaxed manner and it can be really two-way, rather than having to enforce change on the people you love.”
It’s natural for us all as human beings to want to stay super independent and need no assistance right up until the end, but for many people, that’s just not plausible. That’s why McDonald suggests that it’s important to have the conversation early and really engaging your loved one in the conversation.
“You don’t need to talk at someone about this, you need to discuss,” McDonald says. “You can often pick up when the right time is – you can identify some of the signs of change. One of the tips we give families is when you go and visit your loved one, is have a look in the fridge. Have they still got fresh food? Is the milk within its expiry date? Have they got food they could heat up?
“And likewise, have a look at the rest of the house is looking – if they’ve started to neglect things they’ve traditionally been really good at, that’s another really good starting point for a conversation.”
It’s common for older Australians to be wary of having a ‘stranger’ in their home helping them – it can feel like ‘giving up’ – that’s why an early introduction of just an hour or two a week when the situation isn’t serious can assist in easing the transition to home care because they can get to know their care provider and carer or carers.
“It’s important for your loved one to know that they remain in control,” McDonald says. “The Australian aged care system puts the user in charge of how and when they access care and allows them to change providers if they aren’t happy.”
Continuity of care is really important in home care — when there’s a long-term relationship between customer and carer, they can agree what services are most helpful and establish a routine that allows not only the most efficient service delivery but also a trust that things will be done as the client wishes.
On the flip side, frequent changes in carers can be really unsettling for clients, particularly those who receive personal care such as assistance with bathing or dressing. If you find your loved one is being seen by multiple carers within a short space of time, you should raise that with the care provider.
“If they’re not happy with a particular carer, home care customers absolutely have the right to change carer (as well as care provider),” McDonald explains. “Most home care providers will assign each client a case manager who acts as a single point of contact on issues, from whether a carer is suitable to how to make best use of a My Aged Care package. Your case manager is usually the first port of call for any issues with service provision.
“Sometimes people have two or three carers before they really gel with someone. Different people click with different people, you can absolutely change it until you find the right fit.”
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