Research shows that, overwhelmingly, people prefer to remain in their home as they age. It’s often referred to as ageing in place. Findings also show that when individuals engage support early and stay engaged with their community, they can stem the functional decline associated with ageing, maximising their quality of life and enabling them to stay living at home, independently, for longer.
With such positive outcomes, why is it that ageing Australians are often reluctant to engage the very support that would help them live at home for longer, even when their adult children recognise that they might benefit from some help.
While early signs of functional decline associated with ageing are not generally picked up by the medical system, families, however, start to see the signs – loneliness, depression, reduced physical activity, loss of interest in recreation – but then struggle to initiate a discussion with parents or grandparents that they might need some care.
Let’s face it. No one wants to engage in a conversation about ‘aged care’. Unfortunately, it has negative connotations and is associated with a loss of control and acknowledgement that things are changing and not for the better.
How, then, do we go about creating solutions that allow people to stay healthier and remain at home for longer?
First, there needs to be a shift away from the concept and language of ‘aged care’ and towards a concept of support to continue to live well and independently at home.
Second, people need to be able to engage support and remain in control, in particular over who comes into their home and life to support them and when. It’s key to one’s dignity and fundamental to being willing to accept support. It has to be on your terms.
Finally, they need support to do the things that are important to them, not the ‘cookie-cutter’ support other people think they need. I call this ageing-in-place-in-control.
For many, aged care just does not resonate. It’s associated with handing over control to a large care provider who will roster their care workers. In my father’s case, he rebelled against having these ‘strangers’ thrust on him.
A big majority of people who are defined by this term ‘aged care’ aren’t in need of clinical care. They want to continue being active, enjoying life and staying young at heart.
So they need to engage support that reflects their individual needs, preferences, abilities and interests and supports their goals. It might be help to keep you on top of your household and garden, so you can spend more quality time with your family, or support and transport for you to stay engaged with friends, community events and your life’s passions.
As mentioned, for older Australians who might need support to continue to live independently, maintaining control over how that support is received is crucial to ensuring you continue to live actively.
There are a number of independent providers who can help individuals manage and tailor their care and support in order to remain at home. These platforms help give you the choice and control over what support looks like as you get older.
The big difference with these providers is that the person who is ageing – you – is in control.
You directly select who supports you and the type of help you need, safe in the assurance that all police and qualification checks have been done. Independent workers also get to choose who they support, when and what they charge, helping to ensure a long-term relationship is forged.
What can you be doing now to set up the right support team to help you remain at home for longer?
The most important thing is to be proactive about getting support early. While most people don’t consider ‘aged care’ until a crisis occurs (such as a fall), a little bit of support before you think you need it could help to prevent a crisis. Preventative care is about getting support, so that changes in lifestyle as we age do not lead to rapid deterioration in health and wellbeing.
By setting up your networks now and getting support before things become critical, you will be able to remain at home for longer.
A range of tools is available to you if you want to start to self-manage your support. The first place I’d recommend you start is the COTA website, which provides easy-to-understand self-management resources.
I’d also suggest looking at the government subsidies available to support you living at home. Considering that there is often a 12-month waiting period for Government Home Care Packages and about 120,000 people on the waiting list (as at June 30), it makes sense to start thinking about how you want to manage your support now and what you can apply for.
There are systemic challenges in Australia’s approach to supporting older Australians to live well. Independent providers, along with government reforms such as Consumer Directed Care and the ongoing royal commission into aged care, are set to see significant shifts in the way Australia supports individuals as they get older.
I look forward to innovation and positive change in the way Australians are supported as they get older. The future can be much brighter than ‘aged care’.
Peter Scutt is chief executive and founder of Mable, an online platform that enables people with disability and older Australians to connect with independent care and support workers in their local community.
Have you thought about aged care? Have you put any plans in place? Are you prepared financially?
If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.