In a world of uncertainty, one thing is for sure: you are going to get older. Ageing shouldn’t have to be an unpleasant or undignified experience, and everyone deserves to age with dignity and independence. This means that we maintain the ability to live life to its fullest in wherever we call home – regardless of age, disability or illness.
A little known fact is that 70% of people over 65 in Australia will require long-term care at some point. Ageing with dignity is a topic that affects us all at some stage. For carers working with the aged, the subject needs to be understood and communicated openly with both the elderly and their family members. Communication will allow a clearer understanding of what the individual values, thus enabling those in carer and support roles to provide the best emotional, social, physical, and financial care during the ageing process.
1. You are not alone!
As the number of baby boomers turning 65 increases, the topic of aged care is being continually raised. The need for more aged care facilities, hospital services and trained medical, nursing and care staff is much debated all around the country. As it is such a big issue in Australia, there is plenty of information readily available for people entering their senior years, carers and their families. There is also a huge range of options, and different types and levels of care and support to consider.
2. Different people require different types of support
It’s important to understand what an individual prefers in regard to care, be it the pleasant social activity and comfort that added help provides, or total independence with blissful solitude. The key consideration here is to make sure that everyday activities that we take for granted, such as having food in the fridge, preparing meals, the ability to get in and of bed and wash and clothe ourselves is taken care of, so that quality of life can be maintained. It is also worth noting that the available options and support needs of the individual will likely change as they get older.
3. Care from family members is important
Family caregiving is a very important part of elderly care. Generally speaking, families can contribute in three key areas. They can help by physically caring for an individual or helping with their day-to-day needs. Secondly they can provide financial support, either by covering expenses and paying for care needs, or by helping seniors manage their own finances. Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, family members can provide a great deal of social and emotional support to the elderly. No matter what the level of participation the relatives choose, their input plays a significant role in the well-being of the older family member and in maintaining the quality and richness of their life.
4. Address the cost of long-term care
Depending on your financial bracket, long-term care may be expensive and some individuals have to address this fact. They will have to make decisions in advance on the best way for an elderly person to maintain quality of life, while keeping within their financial constraints. People entering their senior years need to consider how they will support themselves as their care needs change.
5. Talk – and plan ahead
The keys to a smooth transition are communication and preparation. Brushing the issue of ageing under the carpet is not going to stop it from happening and waiting for a dire accident before discussing important issues is not advisable. Encourage the individual entering their senior years to discuss what ageing with dignity means to them, and help them to plan ahead. You may wish to discuss putting aside money, superannuation or pensions, preferences for the family home, belongings, aged care facilities or in-home support.
It is a good idea for key support people to have access to a list of important contacts for the elderly individual, and that someone trusted and close is nominated to act as a surrogate decision-maker in the event that they can no longer manage this alone.
6. Communicate with the elderly person’s doctor
Often the same family doctor or doctors can continue to treat and support the elderly person through the ageing process providing consistency and familiarity. However if a new doctor is needed, finding one that you can communicate with readily and who can establish rapport with your elderly family member is important for many reasons. You may need to be increasingly involved in discussions about medications and treatment plans, and be educated on important age-related signs or symptoms as you support the older person.
7. Create a support circle
If an elderly family member has already decided on a surrogate decision-maker, it’s important that everyone knows who this person is. There will likely be other important decision makers and support people out there that you need to be in contact with, such as insurance brokers, lawyers, accountants, close friends, other family members and so on. For some, it may be uncomfortable to commence talk about the details of care and support as someone ages, but it is important for the well-being of the older person. This support circle of key people will help maintain you and your elderly friend or family member throughout the ageing process – and the more support available, the better and more dignified the transition will be for all concerned.
Sage Institute of Aged Care – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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