Knowing in advance can help with problem solving, especially for family members who want to understand and support seniors when they become troubled. Here are the issues most likely to cause heartache.
Giving up the driver’s licence: The car is a symbol of our independence and freedom. Giving up driving is a major concern to many elderly Australians. This is especially hard if you live in a regional or remote area where public transport is limited.
Ease into the situation with some advanced planning. Many supermarkets and pharmacies have a home delivery service or perhaps a church or social club has a driving companion service.
The RACQ lists the average running costs for small cars at $875.67 a month or $10,508.03 a year. For a medium-sized car it’s $1148.51 a month or $13,782.14 a year. This covers fuel, tyre and battery replacements, services, repairs, registration and insurance. Specific costs by vehicle type can be found on the RACQ website.
Not having a car frees up these funds for other purchases. This can be some compensation. However, losing the freedom of driving yourself around is a major hurdle. Allow a family member to express disappointment and when the time is right, help them find solutions.
Fear of declining physical health: It’s hard to watch your body slow down and limitations set in. Some common reactions are denial, frustration, anger and depression. Poor health and reduced mobility can mean you may no longer be able to change a light bulb or hang Christmas decorations safely. You may have to give up active hobbies you love.
Find out about ACAT (Aged Care Assessment Team) assessments. You may qualify for some home help hours and take away the burden of household chores such as vacuuming and lawn-mowing. Getting help for a few tasks is also a way of easing a parent into the idea of accepting help. Rather than thinking of outside help as a threat to independence, reframe it as “support to keep living at home for longer”.
The death of a spouse or loved one: Friends, family and neighbours of the same age are dying. If a family member such as a spouse is caring for them, seniors can become worried that this person will die before them. This is a legitimate concern as 30 per cent of caregivers die before the person in their care.
There is no cure for loss of significant relationships. You can help the person feel less isolated by working with them to build a network. This may include family members, a community visitor, a dog walker, an exercise physiologist and a cleaner who has time for a chat each week.
Running out of money: Some elderly people are living longer than they expected. They may have put funds aside for their golden years only to find they have outlasted their bank balance. The pension helps but it is limited. Money is a very personal subject so tread lightly. Start by sharing your own plans and concerns.
The National Debt Helpline 1800 007 007offers free financial counselling and moneySmart.gov.au has a handy assets and debts calculator. Some church-based organisations also offer free financial counselling.
Perhaps family members can offer to vet tradespeople to ensure you are treated fairly. Unfortunately, there are unregistered tradies and others who will take advantage of elderly people. Don’t keep a lot of money in the house.
The advice to family members is to keep visits fun and positive. It does not always have to be about fixing something. Maintain an open, non-judgmental relationship and an ageing relative is more likely to ask for help when they need it.
Kendall Morton is Director of Home Care Assistance Sunshine Coast to Wide Bay. Call 5491 6888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org