The conversations of life

How do you know when a parent is ready for aged care?


It’s a question we’re often asked here at agedcare101, and one that a recent story in the Sydney Morning Herald really summed up for us.

Written by Melanie P. Merriman, the author of ‘Holding the Net: Caring for My Mother on the Tightrope of Aging’, it’s a touching look at the struggle that many of us caring for ageing parents face.

Her mother wanted to stay living independently for as long as possible – “I just don’t want to be a burden,” is her constant reply every time the issue of needing more help comes up.

But when her mother’s best friend writes to Melanie saying that her mother needs to live somewhere closer to her or her sister, her mother says she is too old to start over somewhere new.

“My insistence that we preserve Mum’s autonomy for her sake, not ours – so that she would not feel like a burden – only made things worse,” she writes.

Eventually, her mother makes the move into an independent living apartment happily, making friends and enjoying the activities, but Melanie does say she would do things differently now. How?

Watch out for signs

Firstly, she would pay better attention to the signs that her mother needed help: “Her growing isolation as she stepped back from community activities and stopped driving except to places she went often, her weight loss and her forgetfulness.”

She would also have been more realistic about the realities of ageing. “I had studied aging and illness. I knew my mother would decline both physically and mentally. Still, the longer she seemed to do well, the easier it was to engage in magical thinking, also known as denial.”

Finally, Melanie says she would talk to her mother about a plan for her future – long before either of them felt it was time. “I now know that when everyone is ready to talk, it’s already too late to be proactive.”

It’s good advice. Don’t wait until too late to have the conversation – then when the time comes, everyone can be prepared and feel comfortable with the decisions being made.

Visit for more information about navigating the aged care journey.

A practising aged care physiotherapist for the past 13 years, Jill has worked in more than 50 metropolitan and regional aged care homes. She has also toured care facilities across the US and Africa. She is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff that serve them.

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