Finding the right home for mum

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For the last few years, I’ve been scared of visiting my mum. I was afraid of what I might find. As I live in a different city, I could only get away from my business and my young children to see her once or twice a year. Still, I phoned her every day and she always told me she was fine.  A few years ago, I went to visit and found my once, strong mother now half her normal weight, frail and covered in bruises.

Alarmed, I spoke with my brother, mum’s sisters and her best friend. We were all worried, but didn’t know what to do or who could help. I think we were all in denial.

Mum lived on her own and refused to see a doctor, as hers had retired eight years ago. Finally, I tricked her into seeing a new doctor by saying I was going to have a check-up and wanted company.

The doctor quickly realised that mum must have had a stroke some months back. That’s why she was losing balance, falling and hurting herself so much. I felt so guilty for not realising this.

The doctor also suspected early stage dementia. Luckily, we were able to get an Aged Care Assessment Team to visit her at home that week. They were fantastic, and convinced her to get a brain scan, which showed she had the early stages of dementia, maybe Alzheimer’s.

I started to visit every three months. Every time I was in town I organised a home visit by a geriatric nurse. On my last visit, they convinced me it was time to move my mum into a nursing home. She was spending long periods in bed, forgetting to eat and was too scared to leave the house. Still she insisted she was okay to stay at home and the family couldn’t agree on what to do. I had one week to organise everything.

I called a financial adviser I’d heard about. He gave me a lot of advice which had nothing to do with mum’s money. He said it was important to get power of attorney sorted, because without one, it can be difficult to get help for someone without their permission.

He also suggested looking at as many homes as I could, so that we could choose the one which best suited her needs. I’m glad he suggested this, as I looked at six, and the last one was perfect. Her room had lots of sunshine and a great view of the garden. There were friendly staff, happy residents and people who spoke mum’s native language.

The financial adviser also gave me good financial advice. I hadn’t realised how many big decisions I’d have to make. I had to decide about the costs of care and how to pay for it, whether to sell her home and how all this would affect her pension, all the while dealing with the emotions and feelings of the rest of the family. I could easily have made a mistake without guidance. 

Thanks to the financial adviser’s guidance, I got the place I wanted for my mum. She is now settled in to her room, surrounded by her photos and mementos and has even made new friends. The way we structured her finances means she doesn’t have to worry about another thing for the rest of her days. It was tough, but now everyone thinks I made the right decision, even my mum.

If you’re facing a similar situation as Tanya’s and are seeking some advice, call the Challenger Aged Care Financial Advice Helpline on 1800 193 937.

This article is based on a real-life case study and is not financial advice.

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