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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Families always asked to care more for the elderly

When I hear politicians saying that they are going to provide more services to help elderly Australians stay in their homes longer, I wonder if they ever think about the families who will be the ones who will provide the main support for those older people still living in the community. In my experience, having spent the best part of the past six years caring for my elderly mother, it is always the families who are asked to do more.

These thoughts came to me when I was reading a list of dos and donts to keep in mind when dealing with elderly people living with dementia. It's fine to ask those closest to the elderly to change the way they perform their caring tasks, I thought, but who is there to support the carers? Does the government ever think of the carers and the families who will be doing the most of the worrying about elderly people living in the community as though nothing were physically wrong with them? Personally I think the government just wants to keep people out of residential aged care facilities because it is cheaper to do that than pay for them to be looked after by professionals. And the people who will have to do more to take up the slack under such a regime are the family members.

I had reason to laugh out loud recently though when listening to one bright idea that was aired through the news. Apparently someone wants to match up young people with elderly Australians so that in exchange for services and a token rent the young lodger can get cheap accommodation in the house of some asset-rich older person. I wonder if the people who though up this ridiculous idea even thought for a moment about how the families of those elderly people think about this kind of mooted arrangement? What about succession planning? Who is going to protect the legitimate interests of children in the years when adults are at their most vulnerable?

It seems that everyone has a good idea where the elderly are concerned, but for my money what counts most is the way that everyone involved is treated. Merely asking families to take on more of the burden of looking after elderly people is just selfish, and punishes those - the so-called sandwich generation - who anyway have plenty of other things in their lives to worry about. Never mind that they are resourceful, clever, educated and wise. They are also human and they need help themselves from time to time. I get fed up with people giving advice about things that they know nothing about. I wonder if the responsible minister in the federal government has ever had to look after an elderly parent. I doubt it.

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