We all have the potential of one day having to place a Mother, Father or perhaps husband or wife into an aged care facility.
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Such decisions when left to a moment of crisis can create a myriad of emotions for everyone concerned. As a child you may feel you’ve let your parent down, thinking ‘maybe I should be doing the caring myself’. As a partner you may have similar feelings, torn between the prospect of living without your spouse and guilt that you couldn’t manage their care yourself.
We asked our Nurse Practitioner, Jacqui Culver, who has been a great support to many families during such times, what loved ones might face…
Jacqui, what emotions does a child or spouse feel when making the decision to put a loved one into care?
Families can feel a combination of primary and secondary emotions, including guilt, a sense of abandonment, fear, denial and sadness. These feeling can stem from thoughts as, ‘I should be able to care for them myself’. Or from promises made “ I will never let you go into care”. Such feelings of guilt can be further exasperated if a loved one is resistant or fearful of entering care. Often in a family dynamic we see one person holds the burden of care, it’s often the female – but not always. Sometimes the wider family aren’t aware that this carer, whether it be a spouse or child, is no longer able to cope. Perhaps the carer themselves hasn’t realised this, it’s not always easy to have such insight when it comes to your own situation.
Fear of the unknown may be preventing families from talking about future health plans. It can also be difficult when the the roles of parent and child seem to be reversed. It is important for families and spouses to validate their emotions, to talk openly about their fears and feelings. This can help them apply reason to their situation and consider the risk verse the benefit of having their loved one in care.
During the decision making or entering care, what can children or a spouse do to help alleviate the feelings of guilt?
Talking is imperative. Talk to professionals such as your Doctor or a Nurse Practitioner. They can suggest counseling services that can help you with your emotions or support groups that operate in your area. Talk to friends, some may have been in a similar situation. Take the time to visit some local aged care facilities, meet the staff, speak to the residents, ask questions and whilst doing so, express your emotions and perhaps the fears of your loved one. By getting to know the aged care system, you will be more confident in your decisions. Remembering, change can be a difficult thing to cope with especially when you are elderly. It’s important you validate your loved ones feelings and let them be heard.
Does a child or spouse include their loved one in the decision making of which facility they enter?
Yes, however this may not always be easy if their loved one has symptoms of Dementia. Whilst the loved one should be included in the decision making, too often families have not had the discussion as to which home Mum or Dad would consider should they need it. These talks need to happen well in advance of a crisis. In many cases I see families whereby a health crisis has occurred, resulting in their loved one in hospital. Hospitals are for acute patients and therefore they cannot remain there, however 24 hour care of their loved one is now required. With that level of care simply not possible for many spouses or family members, they now face the difficult decision of placing their spouse, Mum or Dad into an aged care facility with very limited knowledge of the aged care system nor aged care providers. Without any pre-planning this may result in their loved one going into a facility based solely on availability.
When a parent has moved into a home, how can a child or spouse be the best advocate for them?
Get to know the aged care system, talk with the staff, understand what residential care can provide and it’s limitations. Be willing to share the care of your loved one. Your loved one can greatly benefit when family form a partnership of care. Make regular visits, assist your loved one in orientating themselves to their new home and be a reassurance that both their emotional and health needs will be met. Remembering this isn’t a hospital, your loved one can be taken out for day trips, and in some cases sleep overs. You are still the persons primary carer, the facility staff are there to support you in that role and take some of the ‘burden’ associated with personal care and daily living.
What suggestions do you have for making this emotional time easier?
Validate your feelings, the feelings of your loved one and family. Visit a counsellor or seek out a support group you can join – access organisations like Dementia Australia or even social media support groups. Talk to friends and family and share stories. Finally, reduce your fear of the unknown by getting to know the aged care system and your provider and share in the care of your loved one.
If you are considering aged care options for your loved one, give our friendly Customer Support Team a call on 1800 733 553 and let’s talk about the options or read more about our Residential Aged Care facilities.