The missing link I wish I had – a review of “5 Easy Ways to Solve the Aged Care Puzzle” with author Gail Miller

Stress, overwhelm, exhaustion, irritability, grief, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate at work, sleeplessness and more – according to Gail Miller, author of 5 Easy Ways to Solve the Aged Care Puzzle. These are common symptoms of people who are in the process of choosing the right aged care home for a parent or loved one. But does it really need to be this way?

“Getting my mother-in-law into aged care was a nightmare. It’s a complicated process. Right at the time when she’s needing emotional support, I’m drowning in paperwork. Some people have taken long service leave to manage the process.” Gail Miller.

Gail wished she had what she now calls the “missing Link”, the key that would have made the entire process of placing her mother-in-law into an aged care home so much easier and less stressful. We interviewed Gail about her experiences and why she wrote her book “5 Easy Ways to Solve the Aged Care Puzzle” a one hour read full of great advice that will save you time, money and headaches!


What inspired you to write this book?

“I enjoy writing Books with a Purpose. My mantra is Making Lives Easier. If I can simplify something in your life or in your workplace, then I've achieved my objective.

I’d written two other books previously, What we’re Wheelie like about disability and diversity. I’d also writtenUnscrambling Grief, our story of losing two children and surviving this traumatic time to remain a well-adjusted married couple.

I turned my writing skills to aged care after my own experience with my mother-in-law. She needed much more help than we could give her but I found the process of putting her into an aged care home so difficult. I didn’t know how to navigate the aged care process to choose the right aged care home because it’s so convoluted. I am a methodical, educated and logical person who is process driven but this process did my head in! I wondered about people who were not methodical by nature and how hard they were finding it, costing weeks and months of their time to figure it out.

We eventually managed to place my mother-in-law into respite care for a while and when she returned home, a room at a preferred aged care home became available which is where she is finally and happily settled.

It didn’t need to be so hard or stressful and the experience inspired me to write “5 Easy Ways to Solve the Aged Care Puzzle” to make it easier for others to navigate the process with more ease.

To begin my research, I went to see an aged care accredited financial planner and he suggested I should have seen an aged care placement consultant. I asked him “What’s an aged care placement consultant?”. At the time, I knew very little about the services and benefits of using professionals such as these, which are considerable.”

What typically happens when people start to explore aged care options for their loved ones?

“People get quite stressed and overwhelmed as they are learning a process they don’t understand. They’re tired, confused, and they often panic because if there’s a medical crisis and their parent has been in hospital, the hospital will pressure the family to choose an aged care home. Quite often, if a home is not found within one week, the hospital will make a placement. Hospitals are doing their best to support the elderly person who needs care and if families are unprepared, power is taken away from families and people placed where a bed becomes available.

While you’re trying to work out this process, your parent or loved one is getting more upset daily, they may even be resistant to the idea of moving to an aged care home, and you can’t provide the emotional support they need.

I find the main challenges people have when starting out on choosing aged care are as follows:

  • Current media hype and the Royal Commission into aged care – everyone thinks the worst will happen to your parent
  • Your parent’s condition is deteriorating
  • With emotions running high, you are still required to make logical decisions
  • There may be family disagreements about the right type of care
  • Finding the right aged care home
  • Having the time available to prepare
  • Finding an Aged Care accredited Financial Planner – it’s a highly specialised field and their help can save making costly mistakes
  • Completing a huge amount of paperwork correctly; for example, each admission application is entirely different to the next

I have seen many people take long service leave to go through this process for their parents and often don’t finish it. Centrelink forms have 155 questions, if you get one question wrong, it’s rejected and you go back into the 6 week queue. This tests anyone’s patience! I ask people during my presentations, ‘Who would get 155/155 questions right?’ and never does anyone put their hand up. And they’ve just lost their long service leave.”

What 3 tips would you give people who are about to start this process?

  1. “Get proper advice. Don’t listen to Fred or Mavis who live down the street because they will only give you their view which may not be accurate.
  2. Start the process long before you think your parents or you will need an aged care home. This includes right sizing the house and belongings, making sure your Will and Power of Attorney are arranged and perhaps even organising a prepaid funeral.
  3. Don’t tackle it yourself – get help. Be prepared to pay out a little bit of money to professionals because they know how to do it properly the first time. Why reinvent the wheel when you don’t need to?

Ideally, you need the following people on your team:

  • Professional Organizer
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Aged Care Placement Consultant
  • Aged Care Accredited Financial Planner
  • Funeral Director

With these professionals on your team, you will have a much easier time of the aged care planning process. You will potentially save an enormous amount of money as the timing of admission to an aged care home and selling your home is critical. Investing in professionals to support you will pay off.”

What changes do you see in aged care over the next few years that you'd like to share?

  • “My observation from talking to people, especially baby boomers, is they will not sit back and accept anything. They like to question everything. Standards will need to be improved and maintained. Prior to baby boomers, people accepted what they were told. But the generation of baby boomers needing aged care homes will not just sit back and be led. They will be much more proactive and expect high standards of care.

  • In July 2019 the Aged Care Quality Standards changed to reflect – More Voice, More Choice. This means that if an Aged Care resident wants to do something that involves risk, as long as they understand the consequences of their actions, they are given the freedom to do what they want.

  • The Royal Commission has uncovered many inadequacies and hopefully these will be addressed. As of April 2020, more significant changes will be announced.

  • People are becoming much more aware of how important it is to plan ahead for aged care. Planning ensures you maintain your choices and will cost less in time and money. With proper education and preparation, more options stay open to you. We shouldn’t be pushing elderly people into care because it is convenient for us, but because it may be right for their wellbeing.

Hospitals are not a holding bay for elderly people. Once they are out of their crisis, the hospital bed needs to be freed up so the hospital finds the next available bed at an aged care home. Many elderly Australians end up in aged care homes this way, often far from loved ones and not their first preference. You don’t want this to be your loved one. Planning is vital!

Act now before there’s a crisis – this is the most important piece of advice I give to people. It’s the smartest approach to planning for aged care.

I often refer to the well-known phrase, the 6 P’s: Prior preparation prevents pathetically poor performance. This is very real in aged care.”

It’s never too late to start planning for aged care

Call St Louis Aged to start planning ahead and inform yourself of your aged care options. We arrange one on one meetings or can invite you to upcoming events about aged care including home care, and our nursing home. St Louis on Blyth is our boutique retirement village of five residences located right next door to the nursing home for people wanting an independent lifestyle knowing services and support are next door.

Call the friendly team at St Louis on 08 8272 3344 for a no obligation and confidential conversation about you or your loved one’s aged care needs. We look forward to helping you navigate the Aged Care Puzzle with more ease!

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