How to help ageing parents plan ahead

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Living longer, healthier lives means today’s seniors face an almost inevitable challenge of caring for ageing parents, while juggling employment and helping out adult children and their families. How do you manage caring for ageing parents when the rest of your schedule already feels overwhelmingly full?

Caring can be rewarding but demanding. Caring for other adults – whether ageing parents or adults with disabilities – can have massive impacts on being able to work and manage the rest of your life.

The reality is that not many seniors will be in a position to take on the role of primary carer. That leaves the option of finding quality care for parents needing support. Planning for and sourcing quality care can be a daunting process, in terms of emotion and time.

In this article, we’ll explore some tips on how to prepare ahead for a time when your parent or parents may no longer be able to live independently.

Seniors caring for frailer seniors in australia

Many seniors in Australia are primary carers. A primary carer is defined in the Australian government sector as ‘a person who provides any informal assistance, in terms of help or supervision, to an older person or someone who has a disability or a long term health condition.’

In the latest published statistics from a National Disability and Ageing Survey (NDAS) back in 2012 (source:; issue 4430.0) around quarter of a million of Australians aged 55 and over were defined as primary carers.

This figure doesn’t capture seniors actively involved in the process of sourcing care for ageing parents – an emotional and time consuming task.

How to start helping ageing parents source the care they may need

Our parents (or parent) cared for us, clothed us, educated us, bathed us, fed us and prepared us for adulthood. Many of us repeated this cycle, raising our own children. While we’re preoccupied with helping our adult children find their way in the world, our parents have suddenly got older and frailer.

Sadly, in some cases a chronic health event may bring this reality forward harshly, for all involved. Seeking expert advice from the aged care industry and medical professionals will help you reach a solution that gives your parent the level of care they need.

If your parent or parents are starting to show some decline in mobility or neural health, it is time to start planning ahead. It is never too early to prepare.

Here are some steps that you and your siblings, family members and friends can start taking to prepare for a time when your parents may no longer be able to live independently.

Talk early, talk openly and talk often

I intentionally shunned my mother’s plea to talk about her estate planning and granting of Power of Attorney, for many years. It was a reality I was not ready to face. A frightening health scare propelled me into sensibility and we both agreed it was time to talk about her future. Fortunately for us it wasn’t too late and I am now very clear on her preferences if her health starts to impact on her ability to manage living alone.

It is never too early to start talking about what a loved one wants to happen in the event that they become incapacitated, or can no longer live independently. Ask about preferences for choices of accommodation as mobility declines. Make a plan together around how to manage a serious health event. It is a good idea to invest in some research beforehand so you both understand what options are mutually viable.

A financial planner or legal counsel that specialises in consulting on aged care is a good investment early on, to help clarify financial means and the options available in terms of financial assistance or management.

Start building a network of care

The great expanse of diverse landscapes and urban scapes that Australia is means that many of us don’t live in the same location as our parents. Ideally, the responsibility of supporting an ageing parent should be shared wherever possible. If only one sibling lives close by, the responsibility doesn’t need to fall entirely on their shoulders. The benefit of online research at our fingertips is that a sibling living interstate or overseas has just as much access to information to contribute to an aged care plan.

Invite your siblings or other people interested in your parent or parents’ welfare to participate in conversations about the future with your parents. Agreeing roles and responsibilities while your parent is in reasonable health will make for easier conversations when independent living is no longer a choice.

Research local community organisations that specialise in aged care. Get familiar with the Australian Government Department of Human Services’ (including Centrelink) website. There is an entire section of the website dedicated to ‘Older Australians’ and the types of assistance available.

Help get documentation in order

As we age our health risks increase. The earlier your parent has critical legal documentation in order the less stress for everyone involved later on. Legal documents that become critical when independent living is compromised include:

  • An Advance Care Plan: this form will enable your parent to share their wishes and give directions about medical treatment should critical decisions need to be made on their behalf. It includes decisions about prolonging life and what quality of life is acceptable to them. Better these decisions are made by them, while they are in good health. It only comes into effect if they can no longer make their own decisions.
  • A Will: this legal document lets your parents distribute their assets according to their wishes in the event of their death.
  • An Enduring Guardianship: by appointing an Enduring Guardian, your parent or parents can feel confident that their health and lifestyle wishes are considered if they lose the ability to make decisions in the future.

Helpful online resources for New South Wales  (NSW) seniors

The New South Wales Government provides an informative and concise website – Planning Ahead Tools – that summarises everything you and your parents need to know about advanced care planning and where else to go for more information.

Advance Care Planning Australia is another fantastic resource for helping you, help your parents, plan ahead.

The Australian Government Department of Social Services website myagedcare is another great independent resource for helping manoeuvre all the information relating to the support and assistance available to support aged care.

Don’t forget to look after yourself, first. You can’t support loved ones if you’re run down or in poor health. Remember, you can’t be everything to everyone!


Author: Julie Pearce, ContentServices.Melbourne exclusively for

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