The conversations of life

The difficult conversation: how to talk to a loved one about care options


We often hear from readers at agedcare101 at this time of the year concerned about how well a family member is coping at home after spending time together over the summer holidays.

So how can you approach what can be a difficult discussion?

  • Remember that your parent or loved one is an adult – they have been making their own decisions (for better or worse) for a long time and even if they are struggling now, they will not appreciate you making decisions for them. Unless they are incapacitated for another reason, they should be actively involved in any decision making.
  • Start the conversation early – this is the most important step you can take. Don’t wait for a crisis such as an accident or illness to bring up the subject. Raising concerns earlier will also give your loved one more choices rather than just residential aged care being the only option.
  • Pick the right time and place – talking to your family member while they are lying in a hospital bed is not an ideal scenario. Instead, we suggest a casual chat at home where you tell them your concerns. Have a few examples ready in case they don’t think there is any issue and use a friend or family member’s experience as an example too.
  • Be respectful – avoid using language that could be interpreted as demeaning. Make sure they have a chance to voice their concerns and listen to what they have to say. Be clear that this is just the first conversation too – you don’t need to make any decisions straightaway.
  • Do your research – find out what support and services are available. Could they benefit from home care services such as cleaning, home maintenance or help with the garden? Could living in a retirement village be an option?

You can check out agedcare101 for more information about the types of care available and whether your family member would be eligible for them here.

We also have a guide to organising an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) which you need to access the government-funded Home Care Packages (HCP) program and residential aged care services here.

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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