Sometimes it’s easy to know when the time is nearing for a move into aged care for your parent; but sometimes you have no idea.
Often, the decision to move into aged care is made inevitable by a life event such as a serious medical condition, a sudden debilitating injury or the death of a partner. But in other circumstances, the decision sneaks up on you before you know it. Many of the chronic health conditions that impact seniors do so gradually over a long period of time, and you may not even realise that the functional abilities of your parent have been affected to such a degree.
Generally speaking, there are three main checkpoints on the journey that are signposts that your parent might need a higher level of care:
- When they can no longer effectively function independently;
- When they pose a danger to themselves or those around them;
- When their current caregiver is unable to provide the required level of support.
Here are some of the signs you need to keep an eye out for.
What to look for in your parent
There are a number of things that go hand-in-hand with normal ageing, such as memory loss, declines in hearing and eyesight, slowing down and finding certain tasks harder. These signs in and of themselves don’t necessarily mean it’s time to consider aged care. You need to look for signs that your parent’s functional abilities have been impacted significantly, making everyday life increasingly difficult or dangerous.
If you don’t live with your parent, it’s harder to notice these signs, though. Next time you visit, be extra vigilant and pay attention to the physical, mental and behavioural signs – the little details may tell you a lot.
Look for any of these signs in your parent:
- Multiple falls, often leading to broken bones, bruises or other injuries
- A decline in ability to perform day-to-day tasks
- Cognitive or physical impairment
- Health issues, often leading to hospitalisation or visits to the emergency department
- Confusion, getting lost, or an inability to find familiar places
- Bladder or bowel incontinence
- Social withdrawal and a lack of interest in activities they formerly enjoyed
- An increase in symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease
If your parent is displaying some of these signs, or is becoming a danger to themselves or others, it’s definitely time to seriously consider a move into aged care.
What to look for in yourself
If you’re a caregiver for your parent, you need to take your own wellbeing into account. As the sandwich generation, you’ll often be caught between the demands of your ageing parents and your teenage children, as well as trying to juggle a job and all the demands of life in general. If your parents’ caregiving needs are escalating, you can find yourself increasingly unable to cope, often leading to burnout, stress, health problems, relationship difficulties and lack of motivation.
Caregiving might be taking a toll on your physical, mental and emotional health if you notice any of these signs:
- You feel frustrated, irritated, argumentative, impatient and annoyed frequently and find yourself losing your temper more often, even over things unrelated to caregiving
- You are suffering from frequent fatigue and exhaustion
- You find it difficult to focus on other areas of your life and lack motivation to try
- You lack energy and generally have feelings of hopelessness, negativity, worry and stress
- You have an increased or decreased appetite (leading to weight changes)
- Your relationship with the parent you are caring for is becoming more strained
- Your relationships with others around you are also becoming more strained
- You find yourself neglecting or doing a poor job on essential caregiving tasks because they are too challenging to do properly
- You are suffering from insomnia or sleeping problems
- You have injured yourself while carrying out caregiving tasks
- You have a weakened immune system and suffer from frequent infections
- You are suffering from depression and/or anxiety
- You have aches and pains or frequent headaches
- You have lost interest in your previous activities
- You find it hard to concentrate
- You want to isolate and avoid other people
- You find yourself neglecting your own needs and health
- You feel like you are losing control of your life
If this is you, or if don’t have the financial resources or support from other family members to allow you to continue caregiving, it’s time to consider aged care.
What to look for in others
People around both you and your parent might also notice signs that something needs to change. Look out for:
- Friends and colleagues who are worried about your health and wellbeing, and are encouraging you to explore care options for your parent
- Friends of your parent who notice signs such as confusion, impairment or lack of interest in social activities in said parent
- Your parent’s doctor, who might explain to you that it’s time to consider aged care support
Deciding it’s time for your parent to move into an aged care facility is a big decision, and not one to be made lightly. If you notice a combination of any of these signs or patterns of behaviour occurring over time, you need to start the wheels in motion to get your parent settled into an aged care facility.
Click here to discover why you need to get an aged care plan in place at the earliest opportunity and here to discover three simple steps to getting started in aged care.