Australians want to continue living in their own home as they get older, rather than moving into a nursing home or even moving in with their adult kids.
It’s a smart choice. Staying in your own home gives you independence and keeps you connected to your community. There are memories in every room, a lifetime’s collection of prized possessions in the cupboards and the Christmas tree sits comfortingly in the same spot every year.
The government knows the benefits of remaining independent at home, which is why it offers home care packages that provide funding for the types of support that can help you to stay within your own four walls until well into your later years.
The trouble is, lots of Aussies are put off home care – either via a home care package in which the government subsidises the cost of your services, or by privately funding your own services – because home care is associated with aged care. And that’s a term no one likes.
“There needs to be a shift away from the concept and language of ‘aged care’ and towards a concept of support to continue to live well and independently at home,” Peter Scutt, the co-founder and CEO of Mable, says. Mable is an innovative new platform that enables users to connect directly with support services.
Peter, who started Mable in 2014 after learning first-hand how difficult it was to find the right support for his parents, understands that home care isn’t about being too old and tired to do things for yourself, but wanting just enough help at the right times to continue living exactly as you want.
“People need to be able to engage support and remain in control, in particular over who comes into their home and life to support them and when,” he says. “It’s key to one’s dignity and fundamental to being willing to accept support. It has to be on your terms.
“And people need support to do the things important to them, not the cookie cutter support other people think they need. I call this ageing-in-place-in-control.”
You can read more here about how a process called self-managed care can help you control how you age in place.
Douglas Walker, 80, has been a Mable customer since switching from a traditional provider to the online marketplace in 2018. He’s found the ability to manage his own support services – which, as a retired businessman, he’s eminently capable of doing – has put him back in the driver’s seat.
“It’s given me control over my life,” Doug says.
Many studies show that staying in touch with your community, pursuing your interests and having a healthy social life – all things that home care helps you do – are key to warding off the very cognitive decline that can end your independent life.
That’s another reason Peter Scutt is so determined we stop talking about ‘aged care’ when discussing services that keep you in your own home longer.
“A large majority of people who are defined by the term ‘aged care’ aren’t actually in need of clinical care,” he points out. “They want to continue being active, enjoying life and staying young at heart, so they need to engage support that reflects their individual needs, preferences, abilities and interests and supports their goals.”
Doug Walker is a prime example of how seeking out at-home care can keep you in your home at an age when many people start to consider residential aged care.
His personal carer, Clare, visits four times a week to, as he puts it, run his Brisbane household. Another support worker, Pam, is a graphic design artist who is helping Doug pursue his interest in his family history by writing a book. (Home care really can cover almost everything!)
“I lead a good life and an independent life,” Doug says.
When an adult child or spouse is no longer responsible for ‘caring’ for a loved one, there’s a renewed sense of fun in the relationship, allowing time for higher-quality interactions. This rings true for Doug, who says own kids feel reassured that he’s safe in Clare’s care.
“They’re all happy I’ve still got my marbles,” he jokes. “But they know I’m looked after.”
While Doug’s close to his two daughters, they don’t live nearby; one’s based in Toowoomba, while the other has lived overseas for many years. But the beauty of self-managed care with Mable is that his daughters can assist with Doug’s care anywhere in the world, because of Mable’s interactive, online process.
As for Doug, he doesn’t plan to go anywhere soon, having recently installed a pergola out the back and a patio on the front of his house. When it’s his time to go, he said he’ll do so in the place he calls home.
“Life’s good,” he says. “I would definitely say I’m living the dream.”
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