Sponsored by Calvary Community Care
Have you ever had a convo with one of your parents and realised that, somehow, all of a sudden, you’re turning into the parent?
That in between running after your own kids, you can see the time approaching (if it hasn’t already arrived) where you’re parenting both your kids and your parents?
How does that happen?
Sometimes, it sneaks up on you.
Like it has for me.
Recently, we celebrated my Dad’s 69th birthday.
Dad lives alone, on the other side of town from my siblings and I.
Over lunch we were chatting about his plans for the next stage. I don’t know what it is about impending milestones, but there’s always a lot of talk about the future as one approaches. I know that was the case for me as I approached my 40th last year.
Anyhoo, back to my Dad. And turning 70.
Already retired and enjoying good health, holidays, lots of hobbies (boats, bikes and cars) and a wide circle of friends, we both knew what I was talking about.
I was asking him if he’d thought about how he was going to manage and what his plans were as he gets older.
As we were talking, I wondered whether this was the beginning of my sandwich generation experience.
But hang on a minute. Aren’t I too young for that?
*not my real Dad, husband or son
I asked my Dad whether he was planning to stay where he was or whether he planned to move across town (nearer to my siblings and I) or into a retirement village at some stage. (And yes, I’m known for my frankness in my family!).
I had no expectations either way but I wanted to raise the subject and start the conversation. And I would rather tackle these difficult conversations now – when he is fit, healthy and able to articulate clearly what he wants.
Dad’s response was that he hadn’t really thought about it but he definitely wants to stay put. As someone who has lived in his local area for nearly thirty years, absolutely loves it and knows everyone, I wasn’t surprised.
In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d want the same thing.
I decided to push it a bit further and ask whether he was receptive to the idea of home help down the track – like cleaning and help with the groceries or transport. I wanted him to know help was available if he needed it and told him to give it some thought and let me know. He smiled wistfully and I left it at that.
For the time being.
I’ve had similar conversations with my Mum over the last decade too.
She’s in excellent health and loves travelling, learning French and looking after her five grandsons. But she’s just turned seventy, although her grandmother travelled around the world at 93 years of age, and I know she’s planning to do the same. And I really hope she does.
But we all know that at some stage – whether it’s five, ten or fifteen years away – both my parents will probably need some support to continue to live independently at home.
And the reality is for many of us, that if we’re not already caring for our parents, we will be in the next decade. Trying to fit this in while managing a job, maintaining a household, driving to kids activities and squeezing in exercise will be a logistical challenge – especially if your parents do not live locally.
So while I’m at the tail end of a decade long fog of newborns, toddlers and preschoolers, before that ends, there is a real possibility I’ll be transitioning to caring for my parents.
And please believe me when I say that I am not complaining about that one single iota. Not one bit. I am very aware that I am unbelievably fortunate to have all five parents alive (my parents, step dad and both my parents in law), in relatively good health and how unusual this is.
Given how much they’ve supported me and my family, particularly since we’ve had our children, I’m looking forward to being able to reciprocate at last. I’m also looking forward to showing our children how important it is to care for their grandparents too.
But realistically I know it won’t be possible for me to do it all, especially if their needs escalate dramatically. That is why I want to start having direct, honest conversations about ageing and care and together with my parents and siblings explore the options available so we are well informed and making choices together.
And funnily enough, I’m no stranger to conversations about ageing and care.
Even though I’m navigating all of this for the first time in my personal life, I spent many years in a professional role where it was my job to decide on the appropriate care (accommodation, medical treatment and home care services) for the elderly and disabled adults I worked for. Many of my elderly clients suffered from dementia.
In that role, I became very familiar with aged care assessments and services, levels of care from support at home through to supported residential care and high level nursing home care.
I sought the wishes of my elderly and disabled clients and convened family conferences with them, their children and loved ones, medical staff and other professionals.
I’ve also worked with children with special needs. While I was studying at Uni I spent several years working as an attendant carer for children and adults with disabilities. I was the one providing the in home care and support for those families and I loved it. I could see I was making a difference and I could sense the families’ relief that their loved one was being cared for while they had some much needed respite.
More often than not, at some point, the issue became whether the elderly or disabled person could remain at home given their care and/or medical needs.
I did absolutely everything I could to ensure that they could, for as long as possible. That’s because most people I worked for wanted to stay at home for as long as possible, if not forever. That’s what pretty much everyone wants. Right?
And often, it was possible because of the availability of excellent in home care and support.
Calvary Community Care are an excellent example of this. They provide a range of services for older people, people with a disability and families with children with special needs to live at home independently and stay connected with their local communities.
This can include anything from taking someone shopping to helping them shower. It could also be companionship (anything from going to the movies to a hot balloon ride), house cleaning or more clinical tasks all the way up to 24 hour in home care. They can also provide a range of personal alarms and telephone care with a 24 hour monitoring service.
Some people, like my Dad, may only need a bit of support as they age, such as cleaning, while others, including those who are frail, unwell or have dementia, may require more intensive support. Others may just want a companion for adventures or social activities.
The beauty of services like Calvary Community Care is that you can tailor the support your loved one needs. And if services and those relationships are already in place, if things hit a crisis point at any stage, you’re already connected.
I didn’t know much about services like Calvary Community Care before I started that job working with the elderly – even though I had actually provided that care myself as an attendant carer some years before. Navigating the aged care system was a bit daunting at first but I always found there were helpful people along the way, loads of information available and great service providers out there.
I could see the relief on people’s faces when I told them about what services were available to enable their parents or loved ones to stay at home.
I could also see that people were grateful to know that their parents could stay at home with an appropriate level of support and the understanding that while they’d be caring for their parents too of course, if they were away on holidays or working, there was someone else caring for and looking out for their parents too.
So back to my parents.
I’m continuing to have conversations with them about their futures, and I’m doing it because it’s more important to me to know what they want than to offend them (sorry Mum and Dad!). And yes, I would want my kids to do the same.
If you’re facing some of these issues with your own parents or loved ones, contact Calvary Community Care for an easy, simple guide on how to navigate the aged care system and the options available. Calvary Community Care’s winter edition of their magazine Community Life is also available now.
Have you had a convo like this with your parents? Have you already navigated this? Can you share any words of wisdom?