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Building Better Partnerships in Care

Providing care to a loved one can be a stressful time in a person’s life. A recent survey of the personal carers spectrum identified that many of the unpaid family carers of our elderly are also carers of their own children or grandchildren. I am referring here to mainly Baby Boomers (52 yrs. to 72 yrs. old), who are now being labelled the ‘Sandwich Generation’. Caught between the care of their elder parents or loved ones and still maintaining care for a child (perhaps with a disability) or a grandchild to allow their own children to work and keep their heads above the poverty line.

This group of people are under an unusual amount of personal stress that requires some empathy and consideration when providing services or integrating a transition into full time care settings. If you ask anyone these days, they will tell you that they do not want to go into a residential care home themselves, let alone place their loved ones in a residential care home. They would prefer them to remain independent in their own home or have the elder parent move in with them. Of course, these wants and desires are purely based on emotion and, there is as much chance of it being a pathway to crisis (for one or the other) at some point down the line if not planned well.

For many of these individuals, the prospect of transition of the loved one into a residential home comes at the end of realising the crisis at hand and the decision for fulltime care is being forced on them rather than made by choice. This outcome is the beginning of end (as they see it) and comes with mixed emotions, mainly anger, resentment and a full dose of guilt as they move through an unidentified grief cycle. It is this exact situation they have given so much effort to avoid, that they now are being forced to face.

In these scenarios, I can offer two types of advice and leadership for the three parties involved:

The Person Needing Care:

  • Own your true age, diagnosis, lifestyle and impacts,
  • Know yourself and your wants and desires as you age,
  • Plan for your Advanced Care Directives early in consultation with your GP, lawyer and loved ones, so that when any surprises happen, you have your wishes in place ready to be respected and carried out,
  • Begin to investigate the choices you will have regarding the care you will need as you age and ask yourself early, “Where would you be happy to die and can you afford to do it”?
  • Include the family in the journey so that their role in decision making is known,
  • Choose the best and trusted EPOA to be your advocate.

The New Care Provider:

  • Take this opportunity to embrace the development of a positive relationship with the family carer, the care team and the health professionals,
  • Utilise the knowledge we know and understand about the impact a transition is about to have on the resident and their family,
  • Value the partnership that needs to be established and build the foundations for trust through providing honest, open and transparent communication through conferencing,
  • Include the family carer from the onset of the transition and keep them in the loop always,
  • Spend the time to gain a full and true holistic knowledge of the resident and their circles of influence (family),
  • Highlight the facts that make these partners centered in the journey of quality care,
  • Be honest regarding the need for planning the end of life pathway, as planning for respectful dying is an important factor in the partnership, and remember
  • Prior preparation and planning prevents poor experiences in long term care so be early with the discussions on Advanced Care Planning.

The Family Carer (loved one):

  • Know the full wants and wishes of your elder loved ones, use an Advanced Care Directive,

Identify and connect with your Emotional Intelligence and seek supportive counselling where you can,

  • Understand and accept that you are about to experience a difficult and emotional journey that will test your faith, challenge your beliefs and cloud your normal judgement,
  • Gather the courage to ask the tough questions and challenge yourself to stop and think when faced with conflicting emotional decisions,
  • Lean on those that are experts in the delivery of best care,
  • Try and remember that when you can’t control what’s happening challenge yourself to control how you respond to what’s happening …. that is where your true power lies,
  • The professionals supporting the pathways in care are doing the best they can to provide balance and confidence in their service provision,
  • Give to the partnership in the care of your loved one, it’s respectful to all involved in this last stage of life,
  • Be positive to the good things that care services have to offer, and
  • Don’t look for blame………. offer some solutions.

Baby Boomers have become the focus in reforming the care industry globally. This is mainly due to the large number of them in the population that in turn will have a great impact of the health system as they enter the need for care at some point in the future themselves. Currently most of these boomers are not the resident or patient in need, but more the family care provider, decision maker and person responsible to the elder parent’s needs and wants.

If we truly want society to respect and appreciate the positive aspects of the residential care sector, then it’s time to build better partnerships with those that are experiencing now, what it is to come for them. Our current older cohort are the parents of the future residential client, the culture of good care needs to be worked out now so that society has a clear expectation of what their choices will provide them when they need services down line.

When we ourselves can say that we would be happy to enter an aged care home, then we have reached our goals in respecting our elders and their families that have little choice left but to seek out quality care.

Paulatim…….Dr Drew

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