I felt a bit sick in the stomach and a bit teary but it was an uncomfortable conversation I had to have with my parents.
My parents, Kev and Lindy, are in their mid-60s. As a family we know exactly what both want for their funeral arrangements, right down to the songs they want played. But we have never talked about what happens before that. What if one of them gets dementia or can’t look after themselves in their own home?
So how do you talk to your parents about aged care living? But I’m not going to sugarcoat it: it’s hard.
“I think it’s not just hard for father and daughter or mother and son, it’s also difficult for husband and wife to talk about it,” says my Dad, who’s 65 years old.
My parents have been married for 44 years but had never had an open discussion about ageing and what might happen if they can no longer take care of themselves in their own home.
“In my case it’s difficult to accept I’m actually getting older. I’m on the wrong side of 65,” Dad said. “But ten years ago I would never have believed I would have a hip and knee replacement.”
My Mum, who’s 66, made her decision after a long chat with Dad
“I would like to stay in our home as much as possible, and then a retirement home that still has independent living but one that has tri-care so you didn’t have to shift again if you have to go into nursing care.”
This conversation came up after I was asked to be an ambassador for the SOS Mobile Watch. Basically the SOS Mobile Watch is the 2015 version of the old pendant alarm, but updated so it’s a watch that’s also a mobile phone, has an SOS emergency alarm button and pedometer. It automatically rings a carer if the watch hasn’t moved for an extended period and, in the case of dementia sufferers, you can set a virtual geo-fence that alerts their carer if they wander out of a set boundary (say 2km radius of their home).
I thought it was strange that they wanted me, at 41 years old, to spread the word. But adult children may need to drive the conversation. Luckily for me, not only did my parents agree to have the chat but they let me film it. Seriously, I don't know how they put up with me.
“It’s tough for adult children to talk to their parents about aged care options,” says psychologist Dr Tim Sharp who’s written a book Live Happier, Live Longer – Your Guide to Positive Ageing. “One of the most frustrating things is these decisions are often made in car parks at the hospital after mum has the stroke or a bad fall.