Caring for yourself during the hardest decision of your life 91



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The decision to move your mum or dad to aged care is fraught with emotion, and not just for the parent who’s affected. You may struggle with guilt, uncertainty and anxiety about whether you’re doing the right thing, and there can be family conflict to complicate matters. On top of all this, you’re embarking on something new and have a whole set of procedures to follow.

No wonder it’s considered one of the most stressful experiences in a person’s life.

“Many tell us that even if they find a great facility for their loved one, the decision to make the move and then the days leading up to the change are some of the most difficult days of their lives,” said John Watkins, the CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia NSW when he released a discussion paper on aged care.

“One carer told us that moving his mother into care and taking her away from her home and her cats was the most traumatic and saddest event he had ever had to cope with in his life,” added Mr Watkins. “But what we have found is that when it is managed the right way, it can be much smoother and a much less stressful experience than expected and can help alleviate some of that grief and guilt that is so often associated with this time.”

Choosing a facility

Once your family member has been assessed by the Aged Care Assessment Service and you start looking at residential care facilities, prepare yourself for the experience. In addition to writing a list of questions you want to ask about practical matters, understand that you may be shocked at seeing so many elderly and potentially disabled people together. You may also feel sadness, anxiety, discomfort about not knowing what to do or how to act, or even afraid to approach residents.
Carers Victoria recommends taking a support person and limiting yourself to visiting three facilities in one day.

Preparing for admission

It’s important to know that admission can happen very quickly. In many cases, a decision will need to be made within a couple of hours of a vacancy, with your parent moving in within a few days. Your mum or dad could also be admitted straight from hospital following an incident such as a fall or an episode of confusion. This rapid response adds to the trauma – for both parties – so try to remember to look after yourself as you support your loved one. Reach out to a friend, lean on family or phone the National Carer Counselling Program 1800 242 636.
In the days before admission, take care of practical tasks, such as labelling clothing, engraving glasses, creating photo books and helping your parent choose which items to take with them.
The Alzheimers Australia report found that communication was the key for a smooth transition to care. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and for advice from the facility, and be sure to relay all relevant information to other family members, as well as your parent, even if they are unlikely to remember what you tell them.

The day of admission

Emotions will peak on the day your loved one goes into the facility. Carers Australia recommends calling on a friend or fellow family member to drive you there, help with furniture and other belongings, provide a sympathetic ear and be available to talk with afterwards. “If family and friends are not available, consider asking a health professional or service provider to support you. It’s important to plan for yourself too, when you plan for the day of admission.”

Coping with family conflict

Unresolved issues among family members are often played out at difficult times such as this. Past hurts and jealousies can arise, particularly between siblings who have complaints about the way people “always” behave and things they have “never” done. Be aware of the past but try to keep negotiations and discussions about your parent’s care in the present, focusing on the issue at hand. This is not a great time to dredge up old hurts, and having their children bickering will not help your mum or dad settle in to their new surroundings.

Have you experienced this incredibly difficult process? What advice do you have to others facing it for the first time? 


Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. It is the worst part of life having to go into care. My Mum had the luxury of being able to choose which one she went into then the following week she had her fall so it was great that we had taken her to see Homes in the months before. But what we have experienced since she moved in has been really disturbing to me.. i.e. the number of beds in these places that are filled with younger people with Mental Health problems who bully, harass, take cigs, stand at her room door and talk so she can’t get away…no privacy, no exciting activities that stimulate etc…I must say they do cater to the dietary needs very well….Staff just say ignore these people who annoy but it doesn’t work and they are clever enough to do it when staff are not around…I hate her being in there…

    4 REPLY
    • Are there any other places around that she can move to? My 95 year old mum with dementia is in a lovely place where there are activities all the time and someone is always around to make sure she is okay. I live only 15 minutes away so am able to visit almost every day. It is devastating enough when she asks if I have come to take her home (she lived with us for 13 years before going into the home), but to have happen what you are going through is unforgivable. I would be making some inquiries for other places. My thoughts are with you.

    • So sad for your experience Sylvia, definitely time to look around for another facility, not so hard to arrange second time round once you find the facility and wait for vacancy. My husband has 3 Batchelor brothers all in nursing homes ( we only advocate for 2), and I have my Mum in a nursing home she chose. I have 3 sisters who share the care and advocacy for Mum. I must admit that after 25 years of nursing home experiences we are still kept on our toes weekly making sure care is correctly administered.

  2. Yes, it was very traumatic, emotionally – my Dad was 92, ( in 2011), and had a stroke, and I could no longer care for him – then there was selling the family home, to pay the Bond – I suffered from anxiety and depression,and am still on medication

    1 REPLY
  3. It need not be this way, I cared for my Mum at home and don’t regret any of it.

    8 REPLY
    • We do the same for the Inlaws

      Yes turns Your life up side Down

      But I see them every day

      In the long time it’s worth it

    • I don’t say its easy, but the time comes when they are not around and then you look back on those special times you shared…..nos regret

    • Im caring for my 93 yo mum. We both live in a unit in my daughters home.
      It is exhausting, frustrating and stressful. She still has a good mind but is a little frail but very stubborn at times. I just can’t bring myself to say I can’t look after you anymore you have to go into a home.
      My dad left us when I was 8 and things were hard and stressful and at times dire for her and she never gave up on me. I’m lucky in that we are a big part of my kids lives so I’m not alone. I just can’t do it to her. She was never a social person, I was her life. She would hate it.

    • Lesley I know just what you are going through, I do know it takes a big heart and a strong body to do this work, But sometimes it is good to give yourself a little break to gather strength. Are you living in Auckland?

    • No Melbourne. I have a wonderful family, but silly as it sounds sometimes it’s lonely. I miss my strong independent mum. But that’s life isn’t it? Thanks Helen.

  4. I have been very lucky that my wife’s and my own dear parents died of natural causes well before they lost the ability to care for themselves— they all lived long good lives.

  5. Yes it is devastating when this decision has to be made or the doctors make the decision for you. One of the worst days of my life seeing this happen to my beautiful Mum when she eventually needed full time care.

  6. It saddens me to read these comments –
    I work in a facility I am proud of as both a carer and Recreational Activities officer-
    I am so happy to say that my mum in law has now been living there for around 4 yrs after having multiple small strokes, falls and infections whilst living at home, isolated and living unsafely because she was apprehensive about care due to negative influences.
    The difference in her quality of life now is remarkable – she is social, has friendships, goes on Bus Outings, has greater mobility, has the daily nursing care she needed and more family contact than was previously possible.
    If you are not happy – look further because your unhappiness with the situation will only flow onto your loved one.

    1 REPLY
    • Agree with you Judy, my brothers in law and also my Mum have a level of independence that they did not have when living with any of us, they had become very limited with socialising and reliant on us for all decisions, now they make all small decisions and we execute them and they socialise with many new people not the same old us everyday. Fortunately they do have favourable mental capacity, their ages BIL’s 76 and 86 and Mum 91.

  7. I work as an administration manager in Aged Care and see this torment on a daily basis. Absolutely heart wrenching. Everyone’s case is different due to the mental or physical decline of a parent, family dynamics and finances. There is help out there but it is so hard to find. There is a new initiative by the government My Aged Care website. Get onto it and find advise and links to help you. This however will not help you over the emotional stress so just know that you have to make decisions based on as much information and help you can get. Unfortunately at the end of the day most decisions are made in the end due to financial restraints more than anything else. This is what I would like to see changed more than anything else/ Good luck everyone who is on this traumatic juncture in their lives. I lostmy beautiful mother to ovarian cancer 6 years ago.My dad is 83 and lia very healthy life on his own but I know that can change in a heartbeat. However he knows that he is loved and whatever decison we have to make as a family it will be a tough one

  8. I am physically disabled…..still looking after self but not for much longer I don’t believe.
    I have pets I adore.
    Who helps me ? :'(:'(

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