Life is full of tough decisions and one of them is what to do when your parents require different levels of care.
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While it is a blessing if your parents have been able to grow old together, caring for two parents can be extra challenging, especially when they require different levels of care. For example, your mother could be in her 80’ s but she’ s still keeping up with the housework. She needs a bit of help with cleaning the house and she might need someone to drive her to her doctor’ s appointments, but other than that, she is getting by. At the same time, your dad is in chronic ill health, finds it hard to walk, is often taking a fall and seems to becoming vague and depressed. He may need to be assessed for dementia and if he has it, he will require special care.
The idea of separating your parents can be heart wrenching.
What do you do?
If you ask the advice of government health officials, they may suggest your mother moves to a low care assisted living facility but your dad needs to go to a nursing home. For a start, the idea of separating your parents can be heart wrenching. They have lived for this long together – it seems unfair to separate them now. For them to have to live apart from each other could be the worst blow of all.
Secondly, paying for two separate places will be more expensive and often there just aren’ t enough funds on hand to pay for a retirement unit and a place in an aged care facility. Luckily there are now quite a few solutions to this difficult situation. This scenario is a fairly common situation for many older couples and many retirement village operators have come up with some great solutions.
In general, quality of life remains higher at home.
Hire a permanent, live-in caregiver
The first solution is to get more help for your parents in their own home. A number of studies by health research bodies have found if people are able to stay in their homes, their quality of life remains higher when compared to moving them to assisted living or a nursing home.
So you could hire a permanent, live-in caregiver. This person can be hired privately by the family, or through a Home Care agency. The caregiver lives in the home 24/7 and this is the caregiver’ s permanent location for as long as this arrangement works. The caregiver can manage some light gardening work, housekeeping, grocery shopping, make meals and drive your parents to appointments. Make sure there are lots of safety measures in place for walking around the house and bathing.
A caregiver can assist with a broad range of activities including paying bills and transportation.
Organise scheduled caregivers to visit daily
If you prefer, you can organise caregivers from a home care agency to visit at key times of the day. When you choose caregivers from an agency, choose one that has Registered Nurses who can visit and assess your parents on a regular basis. The nurse will be able to develop a care plan for a parent who has higher needs – for example, if they have symptoms of dementia they will be able to give them treatment for this.
Solutions from retirement village operators
Retirement village operators have responded to this situation and now many of them offer multiple levels of care, or even different kinds of care, to allow married couples to stay together when they wouldn’ t usually have been able to do so.
We spoke with three retirement village operators and asked what solutions they provide when a couple require different levels of care. Linda Hooper, national marketing manager for Life Choice, said they have a range of solutions: “Often one partner is fit and healthy and the other requires nursing care,” she said. “In our retirement villages, we can arrange for external care providers to come into the village and this is on a user pay basis. Sometimes they can qualify for government support – this happens in a lot of villages.
“At Twin Waters, one of our retirement villages on the Sunshine Coast, Estia Health is building an on-site aged care facility so if one person in a couple needs to go into high care, they can opt to pay Estia the daily rate and be part of this facility,” she added. “This type of arrangement is going to be very useful because usually you have to sell your retirement villa or unit just to pay for a spot in an aged care facility. But with our arrangement, now you don’ t have to sell your retirement home. This is why it’ s so important to have these facilities on-site.”
The New Zealand model works well
Ryman Healthcare is a New Zealand retirement village operator which is currently expanding into the Australian market. In New Zealand, their villages provide the full continuum of care from independent living right through to high level and dementia care. The company’ s Corporate Affairs Manager, David King, said this means a couple can still stay on the same site but have vastly different care needs: “Each of our new facilities has high level care and dementia care right alongside independent living.”
“We currently have two facilities in Melbourne but we are planning to build five more villages by 2020. We have found the Australian market likes the way we do things – it means a couple can be on the same site and they don’ t need to be separated,” he added.
Stockland teams up with Opal
Stockland is a major retirement village operator in Australia and they have recently teamed up with Opal Aged Care so their facilities will now provide a full continuum of care. Anna Learmonth, general manager retirement living for Stockland, said: “We believe in offering our residents a continuum of care and, wherever possible, provide options for a smooth transition to higher care accommodation as residents’ needs change over time.”
Recently Stockland spent $160 million redeveloping the retirement village called Cardinal Freeman in Ashfield. The site now has 220 new apartments for seniors and Opal is now building a new 133-bed, state-of-the-art aged care facility within the village. “This type of arrangement where our retirement homes and apartments are co-located with aged care facilities is also very convenient for couples that require different levels of care,” said Learmonth. “The peace of mind in knowing that each partner is only ever a very short distance away should not be under-estimated.”
“Our philosophy around the ‘ continuum of care’ is to give older residents the option of moving into higher care accommodation if and when the need arises, without having to relocate away from their village, community, family and friends,” she added.
What questions do you have about options available for different levels of care? Join the discussion