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Having hard conversations during the holidays

For most Australians, the festive season is a time of both joy and stress. It is often a period of the year when family members come together and sometimes they haven't seen each other for a short or long period of time.

Key points:

  • Hard conversations are best had during the holiday season as most family are available to talk about it

  • If you notice your older loved one is struggling, it may be time to talk about future care they may need

  • Talk to the older loved one about their care requirements and wishes before implementing any changes

Family discuss aged care options
​For older relatives who they don't see so often, the family may be confronted with their older loved one's sudden frailty. [Source: iStock]

For older relatives who they don't see so often, the family may be confronted with their older loved one's sudden frailty.

While it can be concerning and hard to accept that your older loved one is in this condition, it may be a good time to start having hard conversations and making difficult decisions around the care and support they may require.

The first few months of a new year is commonly called the "aged care season" by industry experts.

Often, residential aged care homes and placement consultants are inundated with queries, new clients and applications for nursing home beds. Whereas, once a Home Care Package has been assigned, many families become busy trying to find the best provider to deliver services to their older loved one who wants to remain living independently in their own home.

Signs of struggle

There are key signs you should look for if your parent or older loved one may be struggling at home, they are:

  • Vagueness

  • Weight loss

  • Spoiled food

  • Unpaid bills

  • Struggling to get around the house

  • Unkept or no personal hygiene

  • Social isolation due to their poor mobility

  • Lacking transportation to place or events

  • Messy house

  • Unruly garden

Once a family can see that their elderly loved one needs more support you can start to have the conversation around what can be done to assist them at home. There may be small changes you can do yourself or you may want to explore Government funded home care options.

If it is more likely that a nursing home is the best option, you will need to start looking at getting an assessment through My Aged Care and searching for the best aged care facility. It's best to be prepared early rather than wait for a medical emergency which gives you less time to decide on what to do.

You need to have an open discussion with the older loved one so you can understand what they want in the way of care. It can also help minimise any family disputes that may arise during this stressful time.

Areas to consider:

  • Eligibility

Whether you require in home care or a bed in a nursing home, to access Government subsidised care you will need to be assessed through the Regional Assessment Service (RAS) or Aged Care Assessment Team or Services (ACAT or ACAS).

Your older loved one will be assessed by the team, who will provide a report on the care level they require. All aged care providers require this assessment before they can offer Government subsidised in home support or a residential bed. Visit the My Aged Care website or call 1800 200 422 to organise an assessment.

  • Shortlist services

Using AgedCareGuide.com.au is a fantastic way to browse the many residential care or in home care options that are available in your area and compare providers. You can view the amenities, health care provisions and services provided by providers.

You can then start putting together a shortlist of services or facilities that will best suit your older loved one's needs and requirements. This gives you a good starting point to contact these services or to visit aged care homes.

  • Fees and charges

Understanding all the fees and charges involved with an aged care facility can be confusing for many. How much you pay depends on the home services or residential care service you use, the care you require, and your assessable assets and assessable income.

The accommodation costs are also set by individual aged care facilities. 

If your assets and income test find you qualify for Government subsidised care, it will determine how much you pay. Everyone in aged care pays the basic care fee, which covers food, laundry or care needs. Centrelink will also calculate whether you need to make any further contributions.

To learn more about fees and charges, visit the financial information section on the AgedCareGuide.com.au.

  • Estate planning

While it isn't a cheerful topic, having everyone in the one place during a family get together can be really helpful when it comes to discussing any estate plans.

These important documents can include:

  • A Will and the Executors of the Will

  • Advance Care Directive

  • Enduring Power of Attorney or Guardian

  • What may be happening to their house

Family can discuss if all these important documents are up to date and reflect the wishes of the older loved one. This can be especially important for Advance Care Directives.

If dementia is a factor, it's important to have these documents locked in early, as people with dementia are unable to sign important documents if they have lost capacity. It also allows the family to know who will be handling the older loved one's financial affairs and care once they are unable to make the decision themselves.

The holiday season should be a time to enjoy the company of your dearest family, however, you shouldn't avoid difficult conversations that need to be had about your older loves ones.

How does your family work together with your older loved one? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

How to have the "home care" talk with your parents
What to consider when deciding on a nursing home
How to create a good relationship with your new aged care facility

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