One of the biggest concerns as we get older is losing our independence, and with that comes the fear of becoming a burden to others.
However, if you and your loved ones take some time to think ahead and talk about your plans, you can take control of your situation now and make sure you remain independent as long as possible. Here are some things to consider before you hit crisis mode.
Even if you are managing well now, give some thought to what might happen if you run into trouble. Do you want to stay in your home or would retirement living or residential aged care be an option? Do you expect your family to help you out – and are they able to – or would you prefer someone independent to come to your home so your family relationships don’t have to change? Would you be interested in spending time in respite care while your family is out and about? What are your wishes if your health deteriorates to the point you can’t make decisions for yourself? You can formalise your instructions for medical treatment in an Advance Health Directive (AHD), sometimes called a ‘living will’ with your doctor. It’s also a good time to think about appointing an Enduring Power of Attorney and updating your actual will. The important thing is that everyone has a clear idea of what to do ahead of time.
Consider your current health and living circumstances. What options are available if you could no longer manage stairs or if you were to have difficulty getting up from a chair or after a fall? Would your home be suitable if, for instance, you could no longer hold a driver’s licence. Is there a bus or train nearby or would you need help with transport? Will the bathroom be easy to manage in future years? Home modifications, such as ramps, chairlifts, handrails and shower chairs might be a logical first step.
When a crisis hits, it’s hard to know where to start. You can make the decisions easier by familiarising yourself with the many home care services available – there is a vast array, from help with the cleaning to meal preparation; transport to appointments or social outings; all the way up to medical care in the home, as well as respite care. Just knowing what’s out there will set your mind at rest and make it easier to reach out for support should you or your loved one need it. Talk to your friends about services they might use and how they find their service providers. You might also familiarise yourself with funding options through My Aged Care.