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New to caring: what do I do?

Rita's advice

Once a month our Featured Guest, Rita, offers her great advice and experience to one of our readers. Rita has had extensive experience as a carer, and in helping other carers. She is the founder of Carers Champion, an online magazine…

This month, one of our readers has recently taken on a role as a carer for her mother and is struggling to know where to start or how to help. See Rita’s tips and advice below.

Hello Rita,

I am new to caring and I am not sure how to know what my mother needs.  Mum is in her 80s, I see her struggling but when I ask her what she needs she says “nothing”.  Or when I arrange something for her she doesn’t want it.  I don’t know what to do but I know she needs help.

From:  What Do I Do?

Dear What do I do?,

Thank you for reaching out.

Realising there is an issue is the first part to finding any solution and yet it is often the hardest thing to do.

Whether you are new to caring or “an old hand” at it this is something that affects all of us. Knowing what another person needs can be a huge challenge, especially if they are being stoic and independent and saying they don’t want any help.

As you are new to caring I am going to start at the very beginning and give you a few things to look at.

  1. Has your mother had an ACAT assessment?
  2. Does she have a Home Care Package?
  3. What services does she receive?
  4. Who are her service providers?

Now for the tougher questions:

  1. Why do you think she needs more help? List everything down – falls, out of date food in the fridge, meals not being eaten, bills not paid, personal hygiene and anything else that makes you think she needs more help.
  2. Why doesn’t she think she needs more help? Ask your mother why she doesn’t want more help. List them down.
  3. Now compare the two – no shame, no judgement, no blame, no guilt – just acknowledge the differences. (Please don’t underestimate how difficult this is for your mother – in her 80s and now can’t manage to look after herself, she may not be able even see that she needs help.)
  4. Have you spoken with your siblings?  Do they agree with you?

Ok – just breathe!

Consider professional services

If this is too difficult for you or you think that this may ruin your relationship with your mother or other family member there are always professional services that can come in and assist with working out what your mother needs. I highly recommend that you consider this option.

A professional service will not be blinded by loving memories of a stoic and independent mother. They will look at the situation, work with her current abilities and medical conditions to find the best outcome for her and you.

Yes, there is a cost to this service however what is the cost of losing a loving relationship with your mother? 

Some of the things that a professional will do is:

  • Look at the medical condition and future symptoms
  • Review current services
  • Assist with reassessment of ACAT if required
  • Look for potential hazards in the home
  • Help define physical, medial, personal and social requirements
  • Work with the family to get the best outcome

There are lots of options, services and help available – from local council to state and federal services. Knowing where to access them is important.

We don’t know what we don’t know

This is one of the hardest things I found when I was caring for our father.  I thought I had to do it all and to be honest I didn’t know where to go for help.

Register with Carer Gateway

I recommend that every carer registers with Carer Gateway – even if you don’t need assistance now. They will be available when you do need help. It doesn’t matter if you care for your aged loved one in your home, their home or an aged care home – it is tough and we all need assistance. Carer Gateway provides assistance for all carers.

Look into Estate Planning

Another area to consider is Estate planning – this is about having all the documents in place:

  • Power of attorney
  • Enduring Guardianship
  • Advanced care directive
  • Will

Helping your aged loved one work through these documents now when they are still able to do it is really important. The Advanced Care Directive will help you to know and understand what they want for their care options.

Keep a keen eye – look for signs

One more thing I’d like to mention is that often time our aged loved ones “mask” what is going on. They hide how bad things really are – when you are talking with your mother about what services are needed listen with your eyes. Notice if she is having trouble with caring for herself just don’t listen to her say she can manage.

You don’t have to do this all by yourself.  Outsourcing some of her care doesn’t mean you don’t love her actually it means that you love her so much that you will do anything to get the right care for her.

I wish you every success and if you have any other questions please contact me at [email protected].

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