Judith Edwards was in hospital emerging from the fog of anaesthetic after a major back operation when she received a phone call that rocked her to the core.

"Mrs Edwards, your husband is dead. He was found dead in the front garden this morning holding the hose," said a voice, calling from another hospital across town.

There was no empathy, no easing into such dramatic news. 

"I was hurt at the way I was told … That hurt me so much," said Mrs Edwards, who is 85. 

That was in early March in 2017. The jolt of that phone call sent her into shock.

She was also suffering significant pain after her back operation and was on medication.

"My mind just went," Mrs Edwards recalls. The next three months are a blur.

She cannot remember anything of what occurred between that awful phone call and June 29 - not even her husband's funeral. But then the veil lifted.

"It was 6.20 in the morning and I became aware that I was in the shower, then I heard this voice say, 'Ah, Jude, you're back with us'," she said.

The voice was that of a Blue Care staff member. It was Mrs Edwards' first inkling that she was not at the house she had shared with her late husband but was now living in Blue Care's Pioneer aged care home in Bundaberg.

Back in that traumatic March the doctors had told her son, Graeme, that his mother needed to go into aged care (she has mobility issues arising from polio, as well as the problems with her back).

The hospital also said that if she stayed there beyond a rapidly approaching date, the family would be charged more than $500 a day.

Graeme, who is 65 and lives in Brisbane, scoured Bundaberg to find his mother a bed in a quality care facility before time ran out, and just when it looked like he would have to search outside the district, Blue Care offered her a place at Pioneer.

"Mum was on a fair amount of pain medication at that stage and I think that might have had a fair bit to do with her vague memory," he said. "Blue Care rang us on a Friday and said they had a place."

Mrs Edwards is grateful her son took charge.

"I always said I would never come into an institution … but I had to, I had nothing else."

Now her opinion of aged care has changed, and Graeme is happy that she is being looked after. 

Graeme said: "We have spent a lot of time up there with Mum, just to make sure she was settled in."

Don't wait until a crisis happens to do your research on aged care.

It is not unusual for families to consider aged care only when a crisis occurs, and help is needed urgently. In hospital cases, doctors and hospital staff can put you on the right track to accessing care.

You will likely be referred to the Federal Government's My Aged Care agency, which can provide an in-hospital assessment in urgent cases, to assess you for government-funded aged care services.

This assessment is conducted by a member of your local Aged Care Assessment Team (usually a nurse, social worker or other health care professional). 

The next steps are to work out the costs; find an aged care home you like; apply and accept an offer; enter into agreements with your care provider; and then manage your care and services.

It can be a very stressful process, but aged care providers such as Blue Care can guide you through every step. 

Mrs Edwards' advice to families who are considering placing a loved one in care is to have an open mind.

"Talk to the nurses and directors, they'll answer your questions."

Published: 06/12/2018

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