Australia is Ageing
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, there were an estimated 4.2 million senior Australians aged 65 and over, representing 16% of the population in 2020. Both the number and percentage of ageing Australians are expected to continue to grow due to the increasing life expectancy and declining birth rates in the country. Unfortunately at some point in their lives, many older Australians may be unable to care for themselves. Current projections indicate that by the year 2066 older people in Australia will make up nearly 23% of the total population. Many people will have to face the tough decision of whether or not to put a loved one in a nursing home. As of June 2020, 179,000 Australians were permanent residents in aged care homes, and another 5,800 used these facilities for respite care.
What is an Aged Care Facility?
You may be more familiar with the term “nursing home”. This is no longer used. Now we use “aged care facility” or “aged care home” to better describe the purpose of these facilities in providing comprehensive living accommodations and the necessary support services for older people, as well as the nursing care they may need. Aged care homes are for the elderly who can no longer live at home due to increased care needs and provide a range of personal and health care services including assistance with bathing, eating, and basic medical care. Residents permanently live at the facility with visitation hours for family and friends. They are best suited for someone who needs round-the-clock care and supervision. While aged care homes have their advantages like 24/7 access to medical care, they also have a lot of disadvantages. For many elderly, these disadvantages outweigh the benefits. Depending on your situation, in-home support services or home care may be a better option for your loved one.
Disadvantages of an Aged Care Home You Should Know
Aged care facilities are the most expensive form of long-term care and can be incredibly expensive. If your loved one does not have sufficient retirement savings to help cover the cost, this might not be an option they can afford. It can cost families thousands of dollars a year to put an elderly family member into an aged care home. If the funds aren’t available, an aged care facility might not be a feasible option.
In Australia, the cost of living in an aged care facility will depend on how much money an individual has, the property they own, and other assets they may have. A formal financial assessment called a Means Assessment must be made. There are various fees associated with living in an aged care home to consider. The types of fees to be paid and how much each will cost depends on the aged care home and the results of your loved one’s financial assessment. Care and accommodation costs include a basic daily fee, a means-tested care fee, an additional accommodation fee that some may be required to pay, additional service fees charged for services beyond minimal care, and an extra service fee for hotel-type service upgrades that may apply. Aged care costs change regularly due to inflation and other economic factors and living in an aged care home can be very expensive, particularly if your loved one has to pay for their own care.
Loss of Freedom and Independence
Aged care facilities have strict schedules for just about everything they do and changes can be difficult or impossible to make. If your loved one is used to living a more spontaneous lifestyle and keeping a flexible schedule, it may feel very confining. Many older adults are very set in their ways and have their own schedules and way of doing things. The rigid routines of an aged care facility may conflict with their personal preferences. It may be very hard to adjust to a new and different daily schedule. They no longer have the choice of when to get up in the morning, when to bathe, or when to go to bed at night. For them, the schedules of an aged care facility will feel just as confining.
After living an independent and full life it is difficult for the elderly to lose the freedom of making their own choices. Aged care facilities impose new routines and limitations that may be difficult to accept. Meals and snacks are served at specific times of the day and the menu is preplanned. They can no longer eat on a schedule that suits their habits or choose the familiar foods they like. Many residents become “picky eaters” or they may stop eating altogether simply because of what food choices are offered or when food is served.
Unable to make their own decisions about when and what they do each day, many elderly residents in aged care homes lose their sense of independence. This loss of control over their own life can damage their self-esteem, leading to increased feelings of being old and helpless.
An aged care home can increase the sense of isolation and loneliness in older adults. Depending on your loved one’s financial situation and care needs, there may be few choices of facilities with vacancies in your local area. Depending on where you live and the amount of travel time, visitation can take a toll on family. The demands of work and other family obligations can make visiting even more difficult. With the lack of interaction with old friends and neighbours, even if the family is able to visit regularly, the elderly may still feel isolated and forgotten.
Your loved one may feel rejected if you try to convince them to move to an aged care facility. Depending on the cultural customs of your family, many elderly expect their children or other family members to care for them once they grow old. Sending them to an aged care home can create or intensify feelings of rejection and abandonment.
The elderly often feel lost in an aged care home. Although staff may try to spend time with residents and build a sense of community, it’s not the same as family. They also may not like staff members and if a personal connection between staff and residents isn’t there, chances are your loved one will feel very uncomfortable and unwanted.
Many aged care homes are rather crowded and are struggling with a lack of adequate staffing. The ratio between staff and residents is often poor, increasing the pressure of too many things to do with not enough staff or time to do them. Staff members are forced to rush and multitask in their work to meet the demands of delivering basic daily care. Personalization of care suffers. Since the staff does not have the time to talk or listen to their residents, they may appear to be uncaring or unfriendly. Often elderly residents of busy or understaffed aged care homes feel neglected and unwelcome.
The increasing isolation and social disconnection felt by older adults living in an aged care facility place them at greater risk of emotional and psychological problems, increasing health issues, and cognitive decline.
Loss of Privacy
When living in an aged care facility there are always other people around. The constant presence and activity of staff members, healthcare providers, a variety of therapists, other residents, and their visitors may be unsettling to your loved one. They may even have to share a room with other residents. This can be very upsetting and problematic for older adults, especially if roommates don’t like each other.
Many of the elderly are quite modest and uncomfortable with unfamiliar people helping with their dressing, toileting, and bathing needs. The impersonal care and frequent turnover of staff in aged care facilities can increase refusals for personal hygiene care. This puts the elderly at greater risk of infections, skin breakdown, and worsening health issues.
Noisy hallways at night and rooms shared with other residents in aged care homes often disturb normal sleeping patterns. Restful sleep is lost and regular day-night cycles are interrupted. A lack of sleep can lead to poor appetite, increased moodiness, daytime fatigue, and cognitive decline.
Loss of Pets
Aged care homes often do not allow pets. Pets can be very important to the elderly since they often provide the only constant companionship in their life and make them feel needed. Caring for another living being continues to give purpose and helps maintain a routine in the life of many older adults. Your loved one may not be willing to give up their pet and an aged care home will not be a suitable option.
Pets increase the opportunity for exercise and outdoor activities, contribute to better cognitive function, and provide more opportunities to socialise by helping owners make connections with other people. A Harvard Medical School study found being a pet owner was the third most common way for people to meet in their neighbourhoods.
Pets give you a reason to walk every day, and rain-or-shine accountability can help form a positive and lasting exercise routine. Pet ownership has been linked to many physical health benefits such as lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels.
Pets can also reduce feelings of loneliness, isolation, depression, anxiety, and symptoms of PTSD. Playing and cuddling with a pet helps with being fully present in the “here and now” relieving stress, reducing anxiety, and promoting relaxation.
Increased Anxiety and Depression
Increasing anxiety and depression caused by the new surroundings and restrictions of an aged care facility may have a negative impact on the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of your loved one. Especially those with dementia.
Moving out of the comfort and familiarity of their home is a major cause of depression in the elderly. Many are used to living in their own home and have lived there for decades. They do not want to give up their personal possessions and the comfort of their own home. Many older adults do not adapt well to changes. Living in an aged care home may feel very unfamiliar and heighten feelings of fear, anxiety, and depression.
Rooms in aged care homes are often quite small and shared with other residents. Your loved one will not be able to bring all of their belongings to their new home and will have to give up many old material things that bring them comfort. Unfamiliar surroundings and strange faces increase their fear and anxiety.
Moving to an aged care facility can erode the vitality and will to live in older adults. Often times it is seen as a final step toward the end of life. Removing your loved one from their home and their support network of family and friends can increase depression with feelings of loss, isolation, and loneliness.
Sub-Quality Care or Negligence
All aged care homes must meet a minimum standard to be licensed, but the quality of care can vary greatly from one facility to the next. There are many stories of neglect, abuse, and mistreatment of the elderly in aged care homes. Facilities are often understaffed, leading to poor supervision of staff and residents. The lack of adequate staffing or supervision can increase the risk of poor care, accidents, and neglect.
The calibre of the care received in an aged care home greatly depends on the qualifications and motivation of the staff members. Good staff is crucial in providing the care your loved one deserves. It may be very difficult to know if the staff of the aged care home you are considering is competent, respectful, or friendly with residents. It is always best to ask other residents of the facility about the quality of care they receive and if they would recommend it to others. Read previous reviews, use referrals from trusted health professionals, and talk with friends and community members.
Increased Risk of Disease
The immune system of an elderly person is often weak, leaving them vulnerable to infection and illness. The spread of common diseases like the flu can lead to serious consequences for a loved one living in an aged care home.
Residents of aged care facilities come into contact with many other residents, staff members, and visitors on a regular basis increasing their likelihood of exposure to disease. The increased risk of exposure coupled with lower immunity means that if one resident of an aged care home becomes ill, many others will get sick as well.
The coronavirus disease pandemic of 2019 started in Australia in March 2020. A government report highlighted the health and well-being of older Australians living in aged care facilities, warning COVID-19 can result in more serious health outcomes including death. As of October 2021, there were 2,627 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 758 deaths among residents of government-subsidised aged care facilities. This represents nearly half of COVID-19-related deaths in Australia.
End of Life Wishes
For many elderly people, it is very important that they die in their own homes. The impersonal atmosphere of an aged care facility far from friends and family is frightening. They would prefer to spend their remaining days in their own home, surrounded by familiar things and fond memories. Your loved one may find comfort in staying at home rather than moving to an aged care facility and you should respect and accept their decision if at all possible.
You may also feel some guilt if you make the decision to send your loved one to an aged care facility, especially if you know that they would rather live their last years at home. Make sure that you have thoroughly considered the consequences of your decision or you may regret it later.
Advantages of Home Care Promote Mental and Physical Health
- Provides cost-effective care for the elderly
- Remain in their own home and in an environment they know
- Nursing, therapy, and support services are readily available
- Ageing In-Place maintains normal social networks, surroundings, and routines
- Maintains independence and personal freedom valuable to anyone’s adult life
- A greater sense of control increases happiness and a sense of security
- Promotes socialisation with friends, neighbours, and family
- Preserves the emotional support and health benefits of pet ownership
- Personalised care to meet the needs of the individual
- Offers needed aged care services while socially isolating due to COVID-19 or other health risks
In-home aged care is a less expensive alternative for providing quality care to older Australians than living in a residential aged care home. The number and type of care hours that your loved one receives can be tailored to suit their specific needs. If they need help with some domestic or personal care tasks and don’t require extensive nursing care, they may only need a few hours of help each week.
Speak with one of our compassionate CareSide representatives today to find out how we can help provide the best in-home care possible for your loved one.