The year 2017 marked a critical turning point in Australian demographic statistics. 2017 marked the first time in Australian history when one in seven people were older than age 65. It’s safe to say that everyone probably knows a senior citizen personally. Many younger people will be put into caregiving positions for aging family members as the aging population continues to grow.
For the more than 503,700 Australians ages 85 and older, there is often confusion and fear about continuing to age with dignity. Not only do regular, routine tasks become more difficult, but many older Australians will also face vital healthcare needs as they rely on some form of aged care and long-term care support as they age.
For the rest of the retired population, ages 65 – 84, the need to prepare has never been greater to enjoy life to its fullest. Whether you are reading this article to help your elderly loved ones, or you yourself have begun the journey towards retirement, the following five tips will help you to age with dignity.
5 Tips to Ageing with Dignity
Tip #1. Recognise Role Reversals as a Positive Transition.
The first change that can be hard to understand and accept involves recognising role reversals as a positive life transition. In layman’s terms, there is a changing of the guard as children often become the care givers for elderly parents. As parents, it’s important that this role reversal is accepted so that the necessary help can be received. When you accept the ageing role reversal as a positive life transition, you are more likely to enjoy the emotional, mental, and physical support that you need. As adult children, it’s important that honest and open conversations are held, so that the rights and independence of parents are retained.
According to the latest Australian Health and Welfare report, an estimated one in seven people are 65 and older. An individual who is 65 is not necessarily classified as “elderly,” however, this is the time that children should begin to speak openly with their parents about the potential challenges that lay ahead. To ease the transition into a role reversal, adult children and care givers can ask the following types of questions.
- What are your fears and worries about ageing?
- How can I provide you with the support that you need?
- Is there any way to make this transition easier for you?
- Do you want to stay at home and receive in-home care when needed?
- Do you want to move into a retirement lifestyle facility?
- What do we need to do if you need care in an aged care facility?
- How do we plan for illness or injury?
By asking the above types of questions, adult children can be more understanding of their parents’ needs; and in return, elderly parents will feel like they still have a voice.
Tip #2. Accept Limitations and New Opportunities.
Ageing with dignity will require elderly individuals to accept limitations and recognise new opportunities. For example, when you aren’t as spritely as you used to be, you won’t be able to get on the ladder to clean gutters or string up Christmas lights for fear of a fall.
According to the Australian & New Zealand Falls Prevention Society approximately 30 percent of Australian adults ages 65 and older will experience at least one fall per year.
Unfortunately, these falls can be both financially and physically costly. 40 percent of injury-related deaths in individuals ages 65 and older are caused by a fall. Additionally, 10 to 15 percent of falls in the elderly result in serious injuries, including hospitalisation.
The good news is that by acknowledging limitations and seeking the right type of support, these risks can be reduced greatly. In NSW, the Fire Brigade will annually change the batteries in smoke detectors for individual in need over 60 years old. Seeking family assistance is also a good way to keep your family close and supportive. Common household jobs can be completed by grandchildren giving them a chance to earn extra money, creating the opportunity to form new memories, and reducing the risks of injuries to the elderly.
By thinking differently about ageing, individuals can recognise that age limitations represent opportunities to try something new. Perhaps cleaning the light fixtures is traded-in for painting a masterpiece, learning to play the piano, or taking up mahjong. No matter the solution, this tip is best implemented with the help of honest conversations.
Tip #3. Encourage Honest Conversations.
Ageing is a natural part of life that can be achieved with dignity when honesty it is embraced. If elderly parents are still living at home, and their children are worried about their daily care, then an honest conversation should be had about how modifications and adaptions can be used to improve the quality of life, reduce risks, and provide a supportive environment.
Some solutions that can support the ageing journey, are making sure that homes are adopted to suit a changing set of needs. The following adjustments can help make homes more livable for longer:
- Zero-threshold entryways.
- Making bathroom modifications, e.g. installing handrails in the bathroom and shower.
- Installing a textured floor in the bathtub and/or shower to reduce the risk of falls.
- Clearly marking medications and setting reminders throughout the home using smart speakers.
- Improving lighting and removing clutter from hallways, steps, and doorways.
- Installing lever handles (which are easier to operate with arthritic hands).
Tip #4. Prepare Your Documentation.
The reality of aging is that as you age you will need to review and get legal documents in order. Situations can arise where elderly parents are unable to make decisions about their care and their estate. Preparing documentation might seem like a drastic step; however, without the proper planning, a situation may occur where others have to make decisions for you. Instead of letting a court or tribunal decide who will act on your behalf, take the time to complete the following four documents:
No two wills look the same, and drafting a will is a chance to have your wishes enshrined in an enforceable legal document. Wills are binding when they are drafted when someone is lucid and able to make sound decisions. No one knows when accident or illness will strike, so it’s crucial to outline your will with legal assistance. The will establishes who gets your assets when you pass away, such as your property, business, and other valuable items.
Power of Attorney
This is a legal, enforceable document that appoints someone you trust or a trustee to manage your legal and financial affairs. This document differs from an Enduring Power of Attorney. Enduring Power of Attorney appoints someone to make decisions for you if you are injured, ill, or absent. Medical Power of Attorney appoints someone to make medical decisions for you if you are physically or mentally unable to make these choices yourself.
In the event that you cannot make decisions for yourself about your accommodation, health and services, an Enduring Guardian can make them for you. It is important to note that your Enduring Guardian cannot make legal or financial decisions on your behalf. Enduring Guardianship isn’t triggered until you are in a position where you can’t make these decisions yourself.
Advanced Care Planning
This critical step will require you to think about your medical care in the event of an illness, accident, or other event. The process involves speaking honestly and openly with your family, doctor, and other health professionals about your medical conditions. Advanced care planning establishes your personal preferences and wishes for your medical care should something happen where you can’t make these decisions. Things to consider would be directives like, “do not resuscitate.” These wishes are then formalised in a legal, enforceable document called an Advanced Care Directive.
Planning for the years beyond retirement will enable you to age with grace, honesty, and dignity, where your wishes will be honored. If you’d like to know more about completing the above four documents, you can find out more on the NSW Planning Ahead Website. You can also speak to your doctor, an attorney, and aged care service provider to help you plan for old age.
Tip #5. Understand the Differences in Popular Long-term Care Options
There are several types of aged care services available in Australia. Each service is uniquely designed and positioned to help the elderly receive the care, support, and attention that they need as they move through the ageing process.
The most popular types of care services include:
- In-Home Care – Staying in your own home for as long as possible, making suitable modifications, and receiving in-home care services as needed. There are many providers around who offer these services, but like anything, do your research carefully before appointing a service provider.
- Retirement Living and Independent Living – These facilities offer a self-sufficient lifestyle that includes the support of healthcare providers.
- Assisted Living – As its name suggests, this type of facility is meant for individuals who need daily help in a wide variety of capacities. From housekeeping services, to prepared meals, to physical therapy, assisted living facilities tailor their services to the needs of each resident.
- Aged Care Facilties – These facilities are designed to offer the personal and medical care that residents need on a 24-hour basis.
Ageing with dignity is a process that can and should be supported by loved ones, friends, and medical providers so elderly individuals and adult children can receive the peace of mind that they need to prepare for the later years in life.
To learn more about how to customise your aged care services, contact 365 Care today to discover a personable and understanding approach to in-home aged care services in Western Sydney.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare – Australia’s changing age & gender profile
Australian Bureau of Statistics – Australian Demographic Statistics, Jun 2018
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare – Aged care
Australian and New Zealand Falls Prevention Society
Planning Ahead Tools