How to grow old at home, not in one

While the vast majority of Australians wish to grow old in their own homes, many don’t always adequately plan for this. Find out what measures you can take to grow old at home, not in one.

To stay at home as we age requires a good support network and this can include a mix of family, friends and services delivered through the government’s home care system.

But rather than waiting for a crisis that puts you at risk of having to go into a nursing home, taking some steps before you need help can make the process of ageing at home a smooth one.

In the Grow old at home episode of Season’s Grey Matters podcast, Tracey Silvester says that sometimes people’s wish to stay at home is taken away when they end up in hospital. However, by planning ahead and knowing your options this can be avoided.

“Often what happens is that people have a catastrophic event, so they might have a fall at home, they might have the fall and break a hip, they might have something happen or they might have been just really unwell. They end up in a hospital and otherwise well-meaning people in hospitals immediately jump to ‘you have to go into a nursing home’. You can’t go home,” says Tracey.

“What we’re really trying to do is actually encourage people to think about their choices and that just because the doctor says you have to go to nursing home doesn’t mean that you should.”

There are some steps you can take now to make sure you are in the best position to stay in your own home as you age:

1. Register for My Aged Care 

Anyone over the age of 65 can register with My Aged Care. You may not be in need of high-level care right now, but just being in the system can make it easier when you need to access services in the future.

“I would encourage everybody who’s over 65 who is perhaps starting to think about what their choices might be as they get older to register themselves with My Aged Care,” says Tracey.

“The My Aged Care people will ask a few screening questions, just a few general questions about how you’re coping, things you can do, things you can’t do. They will then determine what happens next. That might be an assessment to put you into the early stages of service delivery, which is things like your cleaning, mowing your lawn, or it might be that you need to have an assessment by the Aged Care assessment team.”

2. Make modifications at home or consider downsizing

When people say they want to stay at home in their later years, this doesn’t have to be the family home where you raised your family. Many people are unwilling to leave their ‘forever home’ filled with memories but at times this house may not be the safest place when your mobility starts being affected and you have stairs to climb.

“For the majority of people, they’re still living in their two-story house with 20 steps up the front and 15 down the back and often big homes – you have big four bedroom houses that the kids have grown up in. It does come down to thinking about is that the most appropriate environment for me to live in,” says Tracey.

Having a rational look at your home and how equipped it is for when you require more assistance can help you make a decision about whether you would be better off downsizing to a smaller abode or perhaps staying and getting the necessary modifications to help you stay living in the home safely. 

3. Document your care goals and plans

Have a think about what your long-term care goals are and formalise them in an advanced care plan or a statement of choices document. It’s also a good idea to share your choices with family members so they are aware of what’s important to you. There is evidence that those who have done advanced care planning and made the information available to their family and doctors are more likely to get care consistent with their preferences and that meets their needs.

4. Ask for assistance

Getting help to stay living at home is a key way to ensure you are free to live the way that you choose. Getting help with the day to day chores such as cleaning, shopping and home maintenance can free up time and energy to enjoy your life.

To get more tips about living well at home, listen to the full Grow Old at Home, not in One podcast.

Related content: Everyday services
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