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At Christmas I realised Dad wasn’t coping – what do I do?

It’s a confronting experience when you notice that your parents aren’t coping. It’s often over the Christmas period when families spend extended periods of time with their parents that they realise they may be struggling with every day activities.

What are the signs to look for and where do you start to get support for ageing parents?

Signs that your parent might need some extra support at home

Physical ailments to look out for with ageing parents

As you get older you tend to bruise easier. Scratches and bumps heal slower than they used to and can become more easily infected. Sometimes older people hide injuries, particularly from a fall, for fear that their family will put them into an Aged Care Home. If you notice any injuries gently ask how they came about and whether they need any assistance with changing dressings. You may need to organise a GP appointment if the wound looks infected or is taking a long time to heal.

You may notice cognitive decline – it may be okay

There is no need to hit the panic button if you notice your parents aren’t as mentally sharp as they used to be. Memory loss is a normal part of ageing. This can include being slow to respond, getting names confused or seeming baffled in the whirlwind of a family visit. However there are some warning signs of dementia that you should talk to your GP about.

When should consult a GP?

You may wish to arrange a visit to the GP to raise your concerns if your loved one has had a sudden personality change, is seeming angry or depressed or doesn’t know what to do with everyday implements, such as picking up scissors and not knowing what they’re for or how they work.


Where to start in accessing support for your parents to stay at home

1. Ask your parents what help they feel they need

Make time to speak to your parents when you’re face to face and free from the distractions of a mobile phone and children. Ask them if there’s something that they are not doing which they wish they could do again – this may be attending a social outing, meeting with an organised group, going out for a coffee or attending family gatherings.

Ask them what’s become difficult around the home, what’s become more than a chore. This may be preparing the evening meal, changing the sheets, washing their hair or cleaning the bathroom. Make a list and organise it from the most important to the nice-to-have.

2. It’s time for the family conversation

Let’s face it, families can be tricky beasts. But there’s a lot to be said for clear communication. Express your concerns face-to-face. Remain calm and factual. Provide specific examples. Don’t worry, even with the best of intentions people may disagree on what’s right. The guiding light must always be what’s right for the people needing care.

Sometimes it may be a good idea to engage an independent advocate to work on the behalf of the person requiring care.

3. Finding good Home Care providers is hard. CareAbout can help

There’s over 630 Home Care providers in Australia – so how do you choose the right one? You need to consider any special care needs of your parents and whether the Home Care provider specialises in these needs. This might be dementia care or diabetes. You want the Home Care provider to be government accredited, to have a commitment to person-centred care and to have excellent training and processes for its support workers. Every Home Care provider will be different.

You will also need to consider the different fees Home Care providers charge and whether your parents are accessing government funding through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme or through the Home Care Package program.

4. Before you choose a Home Care provider

Review the list of your parents needs and what their goals are. Is it to attend a family wedding? Take the dog for a walk? Go for a coffee? Or simply to remain living independently in their own home. Ensure the provider you choose is interested in helping your parents meet their goals. The provider should be wanting to get to know your parents not just their needs

If you start with their needs and goals you will ensure you’re acting in your parent’s best interests.


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