Why I encouraged both my parents to get home care

Written with the permission of a St Louis home care client.

It wasn’t until my mother, who is 78 years old, began receiving support from her home care package, that she understood the value. Before this she refused any help at home.

Before home care, my mother was relying on my 89-year-old father to help her. She has a pacemaker, and a recent stroke left her with impaired vision. My elderly father who is fit and well except for a hearing problem had to stay at home more often to look after her.

Between them, they laugh about the fact they have become each other’s ears and eyes.

With the patience of her home care coordinator and family, we have been able to add more services to her home care support plan and maintain her independence at home.

Dad is 89, fit and healthy but looking after Mum was taking its toll on him

At 89, my father still has many good years to enjoy his life. He is approaching 90 with zest and humour, but this last year of looking after my mother has taken its toll. He also enjoys being out and about in the community which is much less now as my mother has needed him at home constantly.

My parents have been together for over 50 years, and they do their best to be there for each other. However, they can’t always provide the care that the other needs and this causes friction.

Simple everyday activities have become stressful and have affected their relationship, their health, and wellbeing. For example:

Shopping for groceries - my mother likes to be in control of her pantry. She has always been the one to do the shopping and she is very specific about the brands she likes. My father goes shopping with her, and she relies on him to find the right bands because she can’t read the labels.

Even though this sounds like a situation that should work, it doesn’t. My father doesn’t know how to read English that well, he makes mistakes with the brands, and they end up buying products she doesn’t want. This causes tension and stress that neither of them needs at this stage of their life.

Being at home alone – Mum doesn’t like to be at home on her own. She wants my father there 24x7 which is understandable because she is genuinely frightened, she may hurt herself and not be able to call for help. We’ve installed a medical emergency device which she is supposed to always keep on herself, but we often find it sitting on the kitchen bench.

This is stressful for my father. He’s still independent and drives. He enjoys catching up with his friends and having some time on his own. He became tired, and grumpy and his hearing was getting worse, leading to even more communication difficulties in the household.

We decided to get a home care package for him as well. He doesn’t need as much care as my mother, but he needs some help to cope with the pressures of life at home now.

Related article: How I helped my mother feel comfortable receiving home care

The home care services which Dad chose to help him live a better life at home

Cooking and meal preparation – Dad doesn’t know how to cook all that well because Mum cooked throughout their marriage. Learning to cook at 89 was not so easy, so we organised meals to be delivered for four nights a week. For the other three nights, they work out the meals between them. They are both far more relaxed now that its only three meals and not seven they must prepare.

Gardening – Dad loves his veggie patch and fruit trees. And although he is still very active in the garden, looking after my mother and attending to his vegetables was becoming too difficult. And he was not about to let his veggie patch go to ruin. He now receives helps in the garden through his home care package to assist with some of the heavier work.

And we all still enjoy home grown tomatoes, cucumbers, rocket, spinach, plums, nectarines and more!

Home Maintenance – Up until recently, Dad would climb up the ladder to clean the gutters of leaves and dirt. He began having bouts of vertigo, so he had to stop. We were able to add home maintenance to his package with his cleaning, and the gutters are now cleaned professionally whenever it’s required.

Social activities – Dad enjoys getting out and about and has been able to reconnect with his community with the support of the St Louis social coordinator. You can find out more about our social calendars here.

We have also arranged for respite care one day a month. We have a carer come into the home and look after Mum. This gives us peace of mind knowing we can call on St Louis additional respite if we ever need it for either parent depending on the circumstances.

Related article: 6 signs your parents may need home care

Dad is less stressed and happier, and now able to care for my mother better

As the main caregiver, if Dad is happier and less stressed, then it’s better for everyone.

If they had continued without support in their home, both their physical and mental health may have deteriorated very quickly, and their independence and ability to live at home would have not been an option for either of them. One or both of them may have moved to a nursing home, they wanted to continue to live at home together for as long as they continued to be happy and safe.

We wanted our parents to remain independent in their home for as long as possible, so we chose home care support.

This choice has begun a different trajectory, one that we believe will keep them living at home for longer, with more health and wellbeing, and a better quality of life.

Call St Louis to discuss home care for your parents or an elderly loved one

Home care packages can take up to 12 months to begin, so if you are noticing that your parents may need some support to maintain their independence, we recommend beginning the application process now. At St Louis Home Care we offer a one-hour complimentary meeting with us, after your parents decide that they would like to register for an ACAT assessment.

From this discussion and depending on their needs, they may get approval for a home care package Level 1,2,3 or 4. Once the package is allocated and you have chosen a home care provider, your home care support starts soon after.

Find out more about home care application process here.

Find out more about home care levels here.

Please phone our Adelaide home care team on 08 8332 0950 or our Victor Harbor home care team on 8552 1481 for help in navigating My Aged Care and your choices in home care support. We’ll explain the options available for one or both of your parents.

Want to learn more?

Elderly couple