My dad has had health problems since I was a little girl. I was just nine when he was first hospitalised and it felt as though my entire world had shifted.
My big, strong, amazing dad was human after all.
He’s had further health problems and this year he turns 80. My mum is his primary carer however she often needs a hand now that he is older and his health issues more serious.
Mum doesn't ask for help as often as I'd like but she's better than my dad who desperately wants to avoid being a burden to his children. It took me years to convince him that looking after him was a privilege, not a burden.
It became so bad that whenever he was sick or in need of urgent care he'd beg my mum not to call us. He didn't want to inconvenience or worry us.
One time a friend was driving past their house, saw the ambulance outside and called us. Another time my mum rang to tell me that dad had been rushed to hospital. She was distraught because she knew dad would be upset when he found out that we knew. I couldn't understand why he was being so proud and so stubborn.
That day after mum's distraught phone call I drove straight to the hospital and when dad saw me he started crying. He said, "I'm the one who should be looking after you!" I responded, "You have been looking us your whole, entire life. Let us help look after you."
"Don't you know how much I love being able to help you? Don't you know how much I love you?"
The next time he fell ill he told mum to call me and I was able to support them both. A couple of times he called me directly. It was such a relief.
Caring for parents can become incredibly overwhelming, particularly when we have jobs, families of our own and all the responsibilities of modern life. And yet these are our parents and they deserve the best care possible. They deserve to age with dignity and grace, to have a say in how they live out their final years and to be surrounded by those things that make them happy.
For my parents that has always meant staying at home with their vegetable garden and their chickens and their fruit trees (and my mums many flower plants) and the furniture they've had since we were little kids. They don't want to leave the home they've loved for so long.
But sometimes staying in your own home when you have special needs requires some extra support and some planning. Here are a five ways to help your parents stay in the home they've always loved.
1. Support your loves ones by being super-organised about it
This is one option when it comes to the care of the elderly and the disabled. If family members live in close proximity, they can share the care of that person, perhaps even using a roster system. This allows parents to stay in their home and also avoids any one person becoming over-burdened by it.
2. Seek outside help
When there aren't enough family members living close enough to assist we have to rely on other services such as community nurses who are already stretched, or government departments which usually offer very tightly formed and specific medical services at specific times.
Sometimes elderly parents just might want company for a few hours a week; someone to go to a movie with or visit the art gallery, other times the care needed is much more skilled, intensive and requires a registered nurse. Often we want to be in control of how and who cares for our elderly parents, and of course, when they care.
A new online aged care service offers a more individualised approach to meeting the needs of the elderly who want to stay in their own homes.
Better Caring matches clients with carers based on the specific needs of the client and the specific skills of the carer. Just like online childcare sites that match babysitters and nannies with families, the service allows you to find a carer based on your individual needs, negotiate on price and manage and pay for care. Clients and carers can be matched in anything from social support and domestic assistance to personal care and nursing services.
Caroline used Better Caring to find a carer for her father. This is her story. Article continues after this video which has been provided by Better Caring.
3. Move your parent in with you
For those that have the option, you can move your loved one into your home either in a spare room or a Granny Flat. That's what I'd love my mother-in-law to do because she lives so far away and has health concerns. She loves to be with her grandchildren and they love her. However she is reluctant to leave her home and I can understand that. She'd only do it if she had no other choice.
4. Move in with your parent
Another option some friends of mine have just chosen is to move in with their parent. My friend's mum lives in a huge home she can no longer maintain on her own. Being in the same home has allowed my friend to take care for her mum and to take over the care of the home, as well as provide my friend's family with some much-needed financial relief. It's worked out really well for everyone involved.
5. Keep an eye out on new innovations in elderly care
Then there are the innovations taking place within the nursing home industry with some nursing homes incorporating various dependency levels. You can move in as a couple, choose the level of care you need and participate in numerous activities if you wish, with medical help just a press-of-a-button away. For example, there are now specialist group homes for dementia patients.
There are currently more than 350,000 people working in the aged care sector in residential and community settings and by 2050 we'll need about 827,000 workers to deliver a range of services to approximately 3.5 million elderly and disabled people.
By supporting services targeted at elderly and disabled care, that meet the needs and the wishes of the people who need that care, we are ensuring that those services remain in place for when we inevitably need them, or they are needed by someone we love.
What plan do you and your parents have for aged care? Let us know in the comments below.