I often hear people say that once a person enters a residential aged care facility that the caring role provided by the person’s family and friends is no longer required, and yet this couldn’t be further from the truth. Aged care staff encourage family and friends to stay actively involved in a person’s life. There are many obvious reasons why this is so necessary.
Moving homes is generally a stressful and emotional time and, for residential aged care, this can be further exacerbated by the fact that it is often in response to a crisis. Someone’s mother has been admitted to hospital after a nasty fall or the care requirements of someone’s husband has increased because their diabetes isn’t being well managed. Therefore, not only are people having to make important decisions about where they, or their loved one, is going to live, but this is generally during a time when emotions are high and various members of the family may have different opinions.
Entry into residential aged care is by no means an easy decision and the process for someone to enter a facility isn’t always as straight forward as we may like. Aged care is currently four years into a decade of significant reforms and one of the big challenges for us working in the industry is to try and keep the community informed on what care and services are available and how to access them, ideally through a seamless process. But we know that there is more work to be done before we achieve this. The My Aged Care website is a starting point, however, there are many financial and personal impacts that need to be considered.
Not only does the life of the individual entering into a facility change significantly but so to can the life of the person or people that they interacted with while they were still living ‘at home’. I think it can often surprise people how much their life can change when the caring responsibilities are reduced or changed. The changing role of direct care giver to being part of a team who interacts with a resident can be significant. Some people often feel guilty that they could no longer support a person in their own home, some are feeling guilty that they can now concentrate on themselves and not fully on the care recipient.
What needs to be encouraged, is the involvement of carers (where the care recipient wants) in the development of care plans, advance care planning, daily activities and most importantly, the history of the person, especially where cognitive impairment might impact. Family and friends know the person the best, and their input is vital to ensure the care recipient is seen as the person they were, are and want to be.
The amount of time, dedication and sacrifice that can go into a carer’s role is likely to surprise most of the broader community – it generally occurs behind closed doors, carers might have needed to give up full time work, study or visit their friends. When the person that the carer has been assisting moves into a residential facility, the carer role will change but it doesn’t mean that it has to stop completely. The staff in the facilities all tell stories of the husband that visits his wife twice a day without fail, the wife that comes in to talk to her husband before bed every night, the neighbour that assists with the gardening every other Saturday or the daughter that ensures that she is present for every doctor’s appointment. Whilst the setting may have changed for these families the care and love that they provide remains constant. Caring can also take on a new role as people become more involved in this new community, they may start to visit with other people living in the facility or volunteer to drive the bus or even be the family representative that sits of the facility’s board. Caring doesn’t stop simply because someone has moved to a new home instead it is just how this caring is expressed that may change.
This blog forms part of a series of blogs to recognise Carers Week and the important role carers play in the community.
The CareSearch website provides trustworthy, evidence based information that helps carers manage a loved one's terminal illness at home. You can find it at www.caresearch.com.au.