Parents give their children so much as they grow. Maybe that is why it is so hard for many of them to receive care from their children in their senior years.
That is especially true if children have to take on the tough conversation about moving into residential aged care.
Community nurse, Suzanne Tatnell, says that even though her job put her into contact with older people in aged care, it was still difficult when she had to head down that path with her own mum.
“Even as a nurse, where you think you’ve seen it all and know it all, I self-doubted myself a lot and wondered if I was doing the right thing,” she recalls.
Suzanne says her dad’s death in 2014 saw the family confronted with another blow – a geriatrician diagnosed her mum, Val, with dementia soon afterwards. Suzanne believes her dad may have been protecting the family from the early signs of Val’s dementia.
“Dad dying in 2014 brought things to the fore. I asked mum what she’d like me to say at dad’s funeral and she couldn’t tell me anything and different dates of things in his life. I thought, what is going on? It really threw me. “
Val now lives at Star of the Sea Residential Aged Care, in Torquay. It opened in 2017 and is owned by not-for-profit organisation Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH). VMCH has more than 60 years’ experience in residential aged care and has residences across Victoria.
Suzanne and her family chose Star of the Sea because it was five minutes from her home, grandchildren and great grandchildren. They also loved the modern design that gives Star of the Sea a homely feel, rather than the traditional design of some older residential aged care communities.
“Her room is really spacious, it had beautiful big open windows, and it is bright and light. For someone like her with vision impairment you need something with great light and there is room for pieces of her furniture,” Suzanne said.
Suzanne and her family’s experience is common. Many people in their 40s, 50s and beyond are juggling careers, family life and becoming the carer of an ageing parent.
The journey can start with parents receiving some support at home with things like self-care, cooking, cleaning and shopping.
That is where many families often first hear about the government body, My Aged Care or the Aged Care Assessment Team. An Aged Care Assessment is necessary to receive support at home and to qualify for residential aged care.
“An Aged Care Assessment was where we first started. We also got brochures, did a lot of reading online … what to look for in a nursing home. Word of mouth, talking to people who have gone through this,” Suzanne said.
Suzanne says she always spoke openly with her mum about what options they had to provide her with the support she needed and they respected her desire to stay at home until they all agreed that aged care was the best option.
It has been a long journey with challenges, but all the hard work has paid off, Suzanne says.
“This was a process and I can honestly say that our relationship is a lot more positive now. I see my mum as a warm and loving person, and treat her and love her for who she is now. I’ve accepted that and the relationship has gotten a lot better.”