For the purposes of this article, any older person that you care for is referred to as an ‘elderly parent’, but the people we may care for in our lives will of course vary from older parents to aunts and uncles, siblings, a neighbour and so on.
When Will I Need to Care for My Parents?
The time may come when elderly parents will slowly begin to show some signs that they need a little extra help. As they get older, they may slowly begin to lose physical and mental capabilities and will begin to require some help in more and more areas of their lives. This may happen gradually, but it may happen suddenly after a major incident such as an accident, stroke, heart attack or something of that nature. The Australian Government has an information service about home care which is important to understand and ConnectAbility Australia has an Aged Care advisory service to answer your questions.
Research shows that the initial stage of caregiving is the hardest, especially when the elderly parent has become suddenly dependent. Therefore, it is a good idea to prepare yourself as best you can in order to avoid the sudden need to care for an elderly parent, so that you do not get caught in an emergency situation with no plan of how you will look after them. There are some signs that an elderly loved one might need some daily assistance:
- Difficulty with daily living tasks
- Changes in their weight
- Changes in cleanliness or toileting
- Cuts or bruises
- Changes in sleep patterns
Caring for a parent at home
Occasional care at their own home
Once you have realised your loved one needs more help, you may come to the decision that you can care for them yourself at their home. The nature and level of care your loved ones receive will depend on their needs but the most important factor in caring for elderly parents is to consider their physical, emotional and mental well-being.
Care in their own home is an option for family members if they feel they can provide the help that the elderly person requires. The family members might only have to visit weekly for:
- Home maintenance
- Travel arrangements
The down side to this is that 45% of elderly people living at home become lonely. Furthermore, social isolation is associated with higher mortality, comparative to that of smoking, obesity or lack of exercise. Allowing an elderly parent to live at home, then, will depend partly on their social support network, such as other family members, friends or neighbours.
Regular care in elderly person’s own home
With mobility or memory loss, daily life can become difficult. The elderly person requiring care might benefit from a daily visit to check they are not getting injured, lonely or confused.
At this stage, the family member will likely be needing help with:
- Meal times
- Mobility around the house and local area
- Paying bills and managing money
- Bathing or Showering
- Brushing/styling hair, shaving, grooming activities)
- Toilet Hygiene
Get Financial Help
As an elderly person, there may be financial entitlements you can apply for such as:
- Aged Pension
- Transfer to Age Pension
- Pension Loan Scheme (A scheme that lets older Australians get a voluntary non-taxable fortnightly loan from Services Australia)
- Seniors Health Card
- Disability Support Pension – financial support if you have a permanent physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that stops you from working, or if you are permanently blind.
- Rent Assistance
- Energy Supplement
- Continence Aids Payment Scheme
As a carer, you may be able to apply for:
- The Financial Information Service is a free and independent financial service available to anyone
- Financial Hardship Assistance is available If you can’t afford to pay for your aged care costs, which is considered on a case-by-case basis.
Get Extra Help
It is very important to consider the impact of caring for another person. Research has shown that the effects of being a carer can be rewarding but far reaching. Whilst the benefits to the carer and ‘caree’ can be huge (increased social interaction, increased personal achievement or self-esteem) carers can experience high rates of grief, trauma, stress, depression, anxiety and poor physical health.
There can be a significant financial or time burden placed on the family, as well. In times like these, it is important to consider what services might be available from Aged-care Services such as ConnectAbility, for example.
ConnectAbility can offer services such as:
- In-home Aged Care Support
- Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP)
- Home Care Package Program (HCP)
- Private paid services if required.
- The staff hold a Certificate III in Individual support – Aged Care
- ConnectAbility can organise or provide transport services such as bus, taxi or private car.
- Personal Shopping Assistance
- Domestic Assistance ConnectAbility can help with:
- Household cleaning
- Washing and ironing clothes
- Helping with shopping
- Changing bed linen
- Paying bills
- Preparation of meals.
- Aged Care Information and Services
- ConnectAbility can assist you in locating the right information and services, ensuring the right decision is made for yourself or a family member
Care for Others, Care for Yourself
A carer’s well-being is extremely important – to care for others, you must also care for yourself. If you experience physical or mental obstacles and you are unwell, then you will become unable to effectively help an elderly parent.
Everyone can help out
Moving into a caring role for an elderly parent will undoubtedly involve a lot of changes – some gradual, some sudden. Taking on more responsibility and work can lead to physical, mental and social health challenges. In order to ease the transition into caring, it is important for as many of the support network as possible to help out, which will allow adaptability in the primary caregiver and diminish the negative consequences of care. In other words, get everyone to help out!
With the elderly parent’s decrease in independence comes an increase in the need for special equipment. In-home technology for elderly relatives can massively improve quality of life. Setting up and showing elderly parents how to use technology or daily living aids is critical for success. This may include demonstrating many times or writing down clear simple instructions.
- Personal alarm buttons that are worn like a necklace, which contacts an alarm service
- Alarm cords around house in case of a fall
- Grab rails around sink, stairs, toilet, shower and bath
- Chair lifts
- Walking sticks and frames
- Hearing and sight aids
These are just a few of the items that afford elderly people and their loved ones more access to each other, especially in view of COVID-19.:
- Tablets, Mobile phones and Social media
- Technology with large buttons or ear loops
- A landline telephone and a notepad
These following items are important elements in the quality of life of any person, let alone a senior who may be experiencing dementia or social isolation.
- TV and music streaming services
- Puzzles and games for brain plasticity
Whatever the consequences of the increased needs of your loved one, remember to only take on what you and your support network can deal with. Do not be afraid to ask for help and do not be afraid to consider asking another person to become the primary caregiver or a nursing home if it all becomes too much.