You realised it at Christmas.
You saw Mum and you saw vulnerability for the first time.
Perhaps her frailty has been there for a while — but her indomitable spirit — well, okay, her stubborn nature that everything was alright and she was FINE — eased your concerns over the past year. And you’ve been so busy, what with pressures of work, all the activities for the kids… It was easy to be reassured and set those worries aside.
And then you saw it again, worsened, on Mothers Day.
Maybe your sister called you. “I’m worried about Mum,” she began.
And now the door has opened, or the floodgates have opened, and you’re awash with concern about What. Is. To. Be. Done. Where do you even begin? What are these things called ACATs? Or ACAS? Who can we speak to? Does her doctor realise how things are progressing? And how bad they’ve become.
What can we afford as a family? What can Mum afford? Is there help she’s entitled to? Does this help come with strings attached?
And the bureaucracy! Dealing with Centrelink! Which you haven’t had on your radar for years and years.
How are you going to find the time to sit on hold and speak to someone — and you don’t even know what information you need to have ready *before* you speak to them.
How do we join together as her children
How do we come together as her children and make sure that everything is handled? It sounds disrespectful even to use the word “handled” — like Mum is some kind of problem that you have to deal with.
But you know deep in your heart that the time has come for you as her children to gather and support her through this transition. It’s frightening and overwhelming.You’re scared on a deep level that decisions will be made in ignorance that can’t easily be undone.
Everyone’s emotional. Everyone’s raw.
Everyone is questioning everyone else’s motives.
There is fear, and where there is fear, there’s tension erupting.
Why is your brother deciding that Mum needs to sell her home before even we know what’s going on, or what’s ahead, or what decisions need to be made on Mum’s options for the next step? Maybe Mum doesn’t need the highest level of care that your brother is assuming.
And you’re asking yourself — but what if I’m in denial about this and what if he’s right?
How does your decision making as a family go if there are dementia issues to address within the choices for Mum’s care?
What do you need to think about differently if your Mum’s issues are of a more physical nature — a chronic condition that she’s had for a while, and that’s deteriorating — but her mind is fine.Maybe the most important thing is that she stays in her local area where she’s lived for the past fifty years and that she’s deeply connected to, where her friends are.Or maybe, being realistic, it’s more important that she’s somewhere closer to where *we* live, so we can visit her often and the kids can see her too.
But is my need for convenience overriding what Mum really requires?
How are we going to balance the needs of the family around this — our kids, her grandchildren — visits, school, work and all the rest of it. As intelligent as you are — no matter how many checklists you download, no matter how much you read, you are really worried that you’re missing some crucial step or some critical deciding factor, that will impact on your Mum’s happy and comfortable future.
Stories from your friends are not helping
Stories from your friends don’t provide you with much comfort. It seems as if we’re all operating in some secret society where the knowns and unknowns are murky and different for every single family, every single elder, and every single health condition.
You hate that “aging” has come to this.
You hate that this “system” has evolved within our society that means we lead lives where we can’t easily or conveniently access or tap into the assistance with this pathway on the journey that we are ALL going to take.
You want it to be DIFFERENT for your Mum.
That’s the very least that she deserves.
But you know that the idea of putting a granny flat in the backyard and Mum moving in there — sharing dinner with the family every night — is just not going to work. And you feel gutted about this.
You want to have everything you need to make the right decisions for YOUR Mum as a cherished individual — decisions that honour and respect her. Decisions that reflect your love and gratitude for her as her children. Decisions that your family can be proud of.
Or, at least, at ease with. Not easy decisions though, never easy decisions.
Negotiating a complex formula of unique individual needs
As intelligent as you are — you feel unqualified to negotiate this minefield of mitigating factors and conflicting information. There are no easy conclusions to navigating this journey. What you need most of all as a family, and what your Mum needs you to have, is guidance, support and practical, hand-holding navigation through this process.
These decisions have to made within the framework of a complicated formula that takes into account her unique needs as an individual — what she loves — what her physical limitations are — what her preferences are. And you’ll have to address all those things that Mum has said she’ll never ever do, the places where she’s said she’ll never, ever be.
Ultimately you know you want to support your Mum and make sure that she’s as respected, and honoured, and cherished as much as possible through this process.
And no matter what the current turmoil, you want to feel that the decision has been made together as a family. That as her children, you’re all behind the decision that’s been made for how Mum will be in the best place that she can be to receive all of the support she needs to be comfortable and safe.
Of course this might not be about your Mum. It could be Dad. Or we could be supporting either of our parents with the even more difficult and emotional process of placing their spouse or partner into an environment where they’re happy and they’ll have the care they need.
Who do you turn to?
You do not know who you need to know until a situation like this arises within your own family.
Pauline Healy is the person who you need to know.
With more than a decade of experience in various sensitive areas of health and aged care, Pauline has a detailed understanding of the complexities of the change of life transition.
Pauline has a sensitive, calm and reassuring approach that will ease your concerns about the decisions that you need to make — supporting you and your family with all aspects of this process and allowing you to focus on your family member — instead of the minefield of bureaucracy, administration and paperwork.
Because she’s an independent professional advocate, she’s not tied to any one specific Aged Care provider, meaning that the advice she gives you is based entirely on your unique and individual circumstances as a family — backed up by her knowledge of the system and her experience in navigating it.
Her family-centred approach comes with firm but gentle clarity and the competence of years of experience in this area. Over the course of more than ten years of experience, from both sides of the Aged Care placement process, Pauline has personally completed Aged Care placements for over 350 families.
And since 2015, families have been able to place their trust in Pauline as an independent advisor to help them in finding the right place, at the right time, for the right reasons. She will handhold you and your family through the process, providing practical guidance and reassurance at every step along the way.