Reality…it is easier giving advice as opposed to making decisions!
By Mark Teale
Two weeks ago, my mum pushed the alarm button on the medical necklace which she constantly wears around her neck. The organisation at the other end of this alarm followed the correct procedures which they have in place – call my mum and if they are not able to raise her, call an ambulance and call either my sister or myself.
In this case, I received the phone call.
Mum had been feeling very tired, dizzy and was not able to get herself from her bed to her chair in the lounge which is 5 or 6 metres away. Her heart was racing, and she was hyperventilating.
After arranging for the ambulance to transport my mum to the hospital and an examination by the doctor in the emergency ward, mum was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation – an abnormal heart rhythm.
There are several procedures which can assist in returning a person’s heart to the correct rhythm – electrical cardioversion, in other words, hit mum with a couple hundred watts of electricity, which at mum’s age I am sure would stop her heart rather than returning it to a normal rhythm. A second option could be a catheter ablation which at mum’s age, 87 years, is not an ideal solution.
Medication is the obvious choice. However, as mum’s early onset of dementia hampers her ability to remember to take tablets and how many, my sister, brother and I were confronted with the situation of mum’s next step in her life – either a comprehensive home care solution or residential care.
Mum had already been assessed by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) and was entitled to a level 3 and 4 home care package and residential aged care if we thought it was the best solution.
It is easier giving advice as opposed to making decisions!
Not the easiest of decisions to make and talking to mum about the issue was not easy.
I have spoken to many advisers and clients about these very issues, however, I was not prepared with the level of emotion, frustration, and unknown which now faced my siblings and I.
After some very careful consideration, we decided that residential aged care was the best option for mum. I did feel a little guilty about the decision but knew that she would now have the help that we could not provide to her by ourselves.
Plus, at this point my mum had not been eating as well as she should be, she had lost considerable weight and I am sorry to say her cleanliness was not as good as it should have been. On top of that, she was suffering more each week from delusions – mixing reality with fantasy and memories.
The next step was finding a suitable home.
The good news is that I do have some knowledge in this area, which made this step a little easier.
Finding a room is the easy part, we looked at several very nice facilities before choosing a suitable new aged care residence with a larger room which was not far from my home.
The final step was the hardest, negotiating the bureaucratic maze that is Aged Care and Veterans Affairs (in mum’s situation) – convalescence care, respite care, permanent care and all the necessary paperwork with each step.
The process is frustrating and requires lots of paperwork and I have no doubt that if I did not have the knowledge of the bureaucracy, I would be more than happy to pay an expert a few thousand dollars to step through each process and complete all the necessary documentation.
The good news is I only have two more contracts to read and sign and I feel a little more at ease about my mum’s position. I do get an attack of the guilts every time she complains and sulks about her situation, but she is safe, warm, being looked after 24 hours a day and eating good healthy meals.
So, if you are faced with this situation in the future with your mum be prepared for the emotions and the bureaucracy. My suggestion is if you are able to pay someone to look after the bureaucracy, it becomes a lot easier.
As a postscript to my article, I should mention that finding a home for mum was easy as her assets and income meant she would have to pay the full cost of accommodation – the Refundable Accommodation Deposit. Had she been classified as low means or a fully supported resident her choose of facilities would have been limited.
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