Mum is still with us, now 96 and blind for the last four years. Mum knows where everything is, so can navigate around her end of the house quite safely. In a nursing home she would be unsure of her surroundings and either fall or just depress herself to death. We do talk about it, and our attitude is that until she is so unwell that we can no longer assist her, she is safer and happier here. One reality is that, as your parents grow older, their decision-making ability becomes suspect, so it takes patience and reason to discuss the options with them.
But until that day comes, we will do what we can to have her surrounded by family… and then get a late life of our own. Good on you and your family Geoff. It is the best way and good for your Mother. Thank you for choosing what is clearly best for your Mum and wearing the expense. You are paying a price of LOVE that money cannot buy. Actions speak louder than words. Well done, I feel you are doing the best for your mother. After my brief experience with my mother in supposedly good quality residential aged care she only lasted 3 months before the system accelerated her demise I think you are doing the best thing.
Residential aged care in Australia is like going down the rabbit hole, or maybe like the emperor with no clothes. Inadequate staff to patient ratios, pointless routines, crappy food, institutionalised living at its best. As someone said to me, these places are great with singalongs but not so good with the actual care. I am now convinced that many elderly people are better off living if possible with their relatives, if they have some.
Some weeks ago — my mother — independent all her life — now in her 84th year — had a series of tumbles — in one case of which my brother eventually found her lying on her back in the garden — under the full hot sun for some hours apparently. She went off that — and I visited her — some hundreds of kms to the north of Sydney. My brother has a huge house — a corner of which is an ideal independent-access flat — ground-floor — no steps.
Her little dog is also aged and semi-deaf. And he has not yet been given the all-important key to easily access the house — though he and his wife are bringing her most of her meals. I spoke with her yesterday. I will see her in February again. She has told me. A scan she had a week or so ago revealed that the tumbles had in fact resulted in hairline fractures — of three ribs and two more in her pelvis. No wonder the aches. She is re-assessing her ability to be the woman of independence I suspect. Very interesting and balanced piece, Adele, about an issue that is of concern to most of us in middle age.
Sure enough, there was a crisis, with the father collapsing at home and lying there for days. He survived, but the decision to move was then taken out of his hands and the children had to do the best they could disposing of his property and moving him into a home. Because of that, he found it very difficult to accept his children calling it and selling his car. On the other hand, I do feel going into an institution should be the last resort, because people seem to get very old almost as soon as they move in.
There should be smaller communities where, say, 10 older people and a carer live, and the residents could do as much or as little as they felt able to, but would be encouraged to cook, shop etc if they could. Thanks, Adele, for another highly pertinent article. Your mother may be in a special position in Perth which has the Silver Chain Service. This is government funded and has an impressive record for keeping people at home.
I would be interested to hear if they become involved down the track. Having the discussion does seem to be the thing. In an emergency the ambulance will carry her to an excellent hospital. We all hope that this will one day be on our electronic health record but this is currently not possible. Then the hospital will want her out as soon as possible, after sorting out whatever issue took her there. That will be the difficult and stressful time for her children.
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What an interesting service you give us all Adele. So pertinent here in the home of the same couple for over of sixty-one years. So lucky so far on the whole — average age being now eighty- nine. It is a whole new ball-game though, for a couple perceived by some as unlikely and surprising, having courted on a tennis-court mainly and having worked in surprisingly different career fields. You are a leader for us — keeping minds and ideas and opinions active pertinent and balanced regarding our own needs and the needs of others, for our own families and friends and the citizen-at-large.
Your commentators views inform us all through you. Keep on keeping on both and all, for a happy and fruitful New Year as good as you can make it. Older parents are in many cases not a good judge of whether or when they should leave the family home. The mother resents this and of course is not happy in the home. These must be the realities for many daughters and it is a very difficult, fraught time. With stubborn parents such as these, sometimes with marginally reduced mental capacity due to small strokes etc, discussions beforehand are not a great help as the parent stubbornly takes the attitude that it is now their turn to be looked after, after looking after the daughter it usually falls to the daughter.
But not everyone has a family. There are single people who have no siblings, or whose also elderly siblings have no children either. Fine if there are family members who can help, but what if the only children an elderly person has are disabled in some way, and need help themselves? What if all other members of the family live in apartments? No two people are going to be in the same situation. In urban or suburban areas, the beloved neighbourhood may have changed in multiple ways since an older person moved there years ago, and a move, while it is resisted, may bring them into contact with new friends and an easier-to-manage and safer home.
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On the other hand, if they are happy and safe and still have friends and neighbours around, staying put may be the best thing. My mother and father moved in with my sister years ago and were told when they could not look after themselves that they would have to go into care. My father passed many years ago and my mother still lives with my sister. My mother has never been a good mother but has six children that give her everything in life. My sister cannot have friends in her own home as my mother will yell abuse at them as she dose not want to share my sister.
My sister cannot have a holiday. If another sibling was to say anything to mum she fights with my sister, calling her horrible names and this will go on for weeks. My mother has always been and always will be a difficult person. Others think she is lovely but we have lived with her abuse all our life. My sister will pass on before her as she rings me in tears most days… My mother gets angry at the thought of my sister enjoying any small bit of her life.
If you know any way of helping please let me know. I will get back to you on this. But if other readers can suggest strategies to help, please do so. She treasures her independence, and luckily she has all her faculties. She has help with housework, but enjoys doing her own light cleaning around the home.
She employs someone to mow her lawn and my sister does her shopping. We will support her as long as she is physically able to stay where she is.
The responsibility is handballed. This can be for simple things like what to have for breakfast. The dilemma between balancing costs over expected life can be daunting, One this stage has been reached a nursing home, not a retirement village, is more appropriate. As the eldest of four siblings, I think I speak for us all when I say that we did our very best to keep our parents at home, with much help, one way and another, for as long as it was possible.
She has been well cared for, I must say, but if I have learned anything from our experience, it is that , as a society of ageing people, in larger and larger numbers, we must be increasingly vigilant, with regard to their overall care. My sister and I waited until mother decided it was time to make the move.
We looked at places together and chose one. It turned out not to be what was offered. Fortunately we immediately found another place that allowed her to bring here cat and she felt the surroundings were more friendly. She had a room of her own, with her own furniture and bathroom, and access to an open area used by others. We took her out a lot and had good friends who did the same. We did not realise until the move had been made that the shock of leaving behind all her familiar things and surroundings plunged her into a deep depression from which she never recovered.
I think now it would have been better to make the move earlier so she could settle into a more complex and larger place where she had time to make friends while she was still at her optimum mental state. Thank you for a great article. Unless our parents have organised their own move early, i would say wait! Wait for a crisis that will potentially never come and let your parents enjoy the life they choose up until the last possible minute.
Keep having the conversation in case. But for myself, i want to make sure i will have downsized early enough to make a smooth change when it will be come necessary. At first I was dismayed by what I thought the article would be about. Parents are not goods to be moved when their children decide. I have had a number of distressing conversations with elderly widows who have been moved out of their comfort zone because their living on their own worried their children. It was just wonderful having him with us.
I took great joy watching him and his son watching the cricket, sitting with their heads together doing the daily sudoku. It was one of the best nine months of my life. Unfortunately he broke his leg and now needs more care then we can give him and he is in a nursing home. His lovely son can visit him once a day as he is 5 minutes away by car and his two granddaughters and great grandchildren visit him at least once a week.
We bring him up to the local cafe once a week at least as that was something he really enjoyed while he was living with us. We meet with a large group of friends and they too love him. People often say to me that I am being unfair to my children. Not in the least moving me at the right time and clearing out my home is a rite of passage and one that I cheerfully undertook for my Mum and Dad.
Your blog discussions over the year have heightened my awareness and determination to take responsibility for planning, in broad terms, how I can live into and in old age. Thank you and best wishes for the coming year. Adele, thank you for airing this, it is wonderful to be able to provide open discussion on such a potentially vexed issue. I certainly agree that respect is the starting point, our parents made the world we live in and deserve the thanks and rewards due to them.
However, as alluded to, the choices are limited so we need to be more creative in finding solutions and active in pursuing change. As you know the vast majority of people still prefer to, and indeed do, die in their own homes. But sometimes these homes are inappropriate, thus the intervention. This will mainstream the issue, help drive change and provide pathways to more and perhaps better choices and less worry and guilt. Thank you, Adele, for raising a very serious question. Your piece, and the comments posted should leave no one in doubt that most elderly people want to stay in their own homes till they die, and that they are very resistant to moving into institutional accomodation.
In the majority of occasions, this happens by default — others make the decision, and they hate it.
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But what choice do they have — no one listens to them, they are without a voice. This is the elephant in the room- many of these folk, facing this fork in the road, are ready to die, to go to sleep and not wake up. It is not that such care is necessarily poor, but that it represents an existential disaster to many ageing people.
And those are the ones who can be assessed, whoc are not suffering dementia. Unfortunately, very few doctors or hospitals who attend to elderly patients are of the same view of you which is heartbreaking and a terrible shame. Copious amounts of research regarding the impact of nursing homes on the elderly is available if one is minded to become informed. Regretfully, it is easier for social workers, hospitals and allied health professionals to just remove the burden of attending to them by placing them in nursing homes. Job done — next! Those unfortunate enough to become a protected person are faced with a life of total despair because once the public service juggernaut takes hold there is little chance of escape.
The wishes of the elderly person are systematically ignored, their baisic legal and human rights denied, their homes sold and their estates depleted — nursing homes are the easy way out.
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Despite all the propaganda, spin, smoke and mirrors that those Govt. Elderly people simply become a valuable headcount for these organisations to justify Govt. Until the elderly are viewed as valid human beings, despite their physical vulnerabilities, they will never be given equal legal and human rights. Of course, it is given that there are exceptions to the rule where no other recourse is available but families who willing and able to care for their loved one are invariably denied this right by the Tribunals. Depression is but one of the symptoms of institutionalisation.
I applaud all the genuine people, both professional and individual, who campaign for the rights of the elderly and our most vulnerable. May their voices become louder and their power stronger so that changes can take place which will protect the rights of the elderly and restore their freedom to live out their twilight years according to their own wishes. Bridgette, my own experience with the Guardianship Tribunal could not have been more positive. And my reading of many cases highlights the difficulties such tribunals face when confronted with warring family members behaving badly.
In my father was diagnosed with dementia. He had just had an operation and was refusing any services that would assist him at home so the hospital applied for me to be appointed Guardian by the Guardianship Tribunal. They recommended that he be placed in an aged care facility and threatened to have my Guardianship revoked when instead I arranged for him to receive a community care package, meals on wheels and other services, so he could remain safely at home.
We negotiated through this difficulty and he stayed in his home for two and a half years he lived in a regional centre five hours drive from where I live. In March this year his care providers felt his dementia had progressed to a point where they could no longer care for him adequately and they expressed concern for his safety. As his Guardian I felt that while I was responsible for choosing the least restrictive option for him, I also had a duty of care. So, heartbreakingly, and against his will, we moved him into care. The first stop was respite in a high care facility the only vacancy available at the time.
This was a terrible experience for him, but our only option.
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Dad loved it and referred to it as home immediately. We loved seeing him so settled and part of a community — a new experience for him after years of isolation. Sadly however he became ill late this year and passed away just before Christmas. This experience has been complex and certainly not a simple matter of putting Dad in a home out of convenience. It has meant becoming informed about the options, and continually assessing if what we were doing was adequate.
And knowing that at times, there was no decision that was going to make everything right, only decisions that would make things less wrong. An important problem that will impact us all, both as children of aged parents, and, later, when we in turn become aged and in need of assistance.
Learn from the former so that you can cope better with the latter. My widowed mother lived for 35 years in a large house with a large garden. In her 80s both became too much to cope with but she refused to consider a move to a retirement village. She was able to remain at home because the local Council provided care support a couple of times a week which she resented, thinking it an intrusion and a nurse came daily to make sure she took her medication ditto. Then she had a fall, broke a leg, had to go to a rehabilitation hospital, and expert advice was that she should not return home but go into a nursing home.
This was bitterly resisted although we found her a really good one quite expensive.
Every time we came to visit she begged to be taken home. It was really sad but we had to insist she stay there. Several years later she had a stroke and, mercifully, died. Now in my early 70s, and in quite good health, I have learned from this experience to welcome offers of assistance which will make my life easier instead of being pig-headed and insist on being totally independent, to be realistic about how much longer I might be able to stay where I am without support, and to ensure that I have caring and understanding friends who I can trust to make decisions if I am unable to do so.
Thank you Adele for raising this issue as the complexities are so much more than just shifting from one location to another. The impact that forced moves due to ill health have on the social fabric of the famiy can lead to life-long changes in relationships, sometimes good, sometimes bad. But for the Baby Boomers what my husband and I have chosen to do is to begin to renovate our modest 3-brick home with middle-sized garden to last us the rest of our live through walking frames, wheelchairs and dementia.
This means taking out bath tubs and putting in 2 toilets, opening up the kitchen area, taking out carpets and modifying rooms to accommodate visitors as well as being our individual studies. We live in a neighbourhood with good neighbours, all conveniences including hospital, doctor, grocer, etc. Half of the people on our street are of an average age of 80 and living 1 or 2 to a house and would only dream of leaving their home in a hearse. I hope more people will think about modifying their home for their future years while they are still able. Important article and interesting discussion.
My mother refused to discuss the idea of living anywhere other than her family home even though my father wanted to move into residential care. My concern was that when the crisis came she would be forced to go where there was a place not somewhere of her choosing. She lived at home until 90 with family and aged care support and left in an ambulance. I moved to her city for 2 months to find her a place as she knew she could not return home.
Fortunately the place which became available was in her suburb with people she knew and her GP could visit. This could have been very different. I am now thinking of what I will do as I do not want to be in a similar position. Is it worse to railroad an elderly person into a different living arrangement or to allow them to do as they like, knowing that it will probably end in disaster? My mother in law lives in a retirement village in an independent unit.
She is lucky that she has a large family and every day someone is taking her out, making sure she has food etc but she is alone in her unit a lot also. Her balance and mobility are poor and she refuses to use a walking aid or to wear an alarm necklace. Already she has had cracked ribs which were unexplained although she claimed she had not had a fall. Instead she will be in a nursing home with broken bones which to my mind would be worse than doing what is necessary now to keep the little independence she still has.
I personally think she has depression but her children say she would refuse to take pills or see a therapist so nothing is done. Thanks, Adele for raising this issue and giving us a chance to discuss it. She is still in her retirement village unit thank heavens we moved her there ten years ago while she was able to adjust and make new friends , and has now been assessed by ACAT as needing a short visit each day. Although my partner was a nurse and is now a nursing academic, negotiating the realities of the aged care system is teaching us something new every day.
But we are really grateful there is something to negotiate and learn about as we try and make the best decisions for her. The old should go into an institution only when they feel that the time is right. Each case is individual. Each situation takes much soul searching….
There are many good financial advisors available to go over all manner of different options when it comes to the financial arena. It is important that a parent or parents agree, while still of sound mind, who is going to be their Power of Attorney. This in itself can be fraught with many difficulties. It is vital that the family do this, where possible, as a supportive unit. I know that I had to do all of this on my own with no assistance from my older sibling. It made it far more wearing emotionally and psychologically.
In short, no decision to place a parent into a nursing home is ever easy. The family, dependent on each personality, will experience the gamut of loss and grief, as will the person changing their entire familiar surroundings, their favourite food, garden and all of the things that made life, their life. Health and physical issues can get in the way of them learning and using technology so easily. Killing the need for passwords with biometrics. British ships get new navigation technology.
Sony boosted by PlayStation 4 as 2Q loss narrows. Robotic bartender serves up drinks on world's first 'smart ship'. An obvious but often overlooked point - this can include the most basic of things, which seem like second nature to us, such as remembering where the volume button is. Research has shown than the elderly, once taught properly, get on far better with a tablet than a traditional computer.
Touch screens are more intuitive than a mouse, and portability is more convenient and comfortable, and a lack of wires is less intimidating. The way older people hold devices or touch the screen can be problematic to the way touch screens have been developed. The average response time for the icons on an Apple screen is 0. Shaky hands, and multiple fingers on the screen at once can also cause problems something which Breezie integrates into its technology.
Sometimes we have to translate terms, which are commonplace to us, but without the context of technology, mean very little to someone else. People from an older generation often assume that all apps and content cost money, or that you have to pay-per-use. This is a big concern for older people, particularly when it comes to storing personal information like bank details online.
A lot of older technology users think you have to keep devices plugged in all the time, rather than just charge them when battery life is low. Technological changes are happening at an exponential rate. While this constant innovation keeps younger generations engaged, it can lead to the opposite for older ones. Having a younger teacher in a whole new world can be a difficult experience for older people — and they often hesitate about asking questions for fear of being a nuisance, looking silly or getting a patronising response.
My best piece of advice in teaching an older person their way around a tablet or a computer is to be prepared with an awareness of the issues they might have, so you can try and answer their questions before they even have to ask them.