O'Donnell Kerr Financial Planners
  • 12 April, 2016

Reality shock

I believe I have a good understanding of the complexities and the bureaucratic system people need to navigate when confronting the prospect of aged care.

Over the last few years I have written numerous articles, blogs, and answered countless questions. I have also presented to large numbers of people all on the subject of aged care.

My belief was that, because of this knowledge and understanding, I would be well prepared when I too had to deal with the prospect of aged care. This turned out not true!

The reality of the situation is that it’s far more stressful and confronting when you have to deal with it personally.

My stepdad, Dallas, is aged 93 and my mother, Shirley, is 85. Recently my stepdad’s health deteriorated, and my mum’s declining physical abilities meant that she was unable to provide the necessary care for Dallas at home. The situation was creating a stressful and less than ideal lifestyle for them both.

It all came to a head when Dallas had a fall in the middle of the night and my mum hurt herself attempting to lift him. He didn’t break any bones, thankfully, however an ambulance was required and he was hospitalised.

As a family we realised that Dallas would not be able to return home, regardless of how much home care we could arrange.

In consultation with Dallas (who is as sharp as a tack) and mum, a decision was reached.

As a family we agreed that an aged care facility was necessary for him to ensure he received the best care possible.

Even though it only took a couple of days to reach our decision – during this time Dallas was still occupying a hospital bed. What I noticed the most during this difficult time was the growing pressure from the hospital to find alternative accommodation.

In just a number of days the need to find a suitable aged care home had become our number one priority.

The first hurdle was dealing with hospital bureaucracy. We quickly realised that, within the hospital walls, the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing.

The following are just a couple of examples of this occurring:

  • The residential care placement officer at the hospital had assumed that my stepdad had no money, and therefore was only considering him for a fully government-supported bed; therefore limiting his options.
  • The hospital social worker did not realise we were seeking residential aged care options instead of home care options – therefore the aged care placement process was delayed.
  • The hospital’s doctor wanted to discharge Dallas without the necessary care and medication plans in place, and the doctor had not spoken to the relevant staff within the hospital beforehand. Therefore, there was an inaccurate assumption that he would be going into home care.


A key lesson we learnt during Dallas’ hospital stay was this; stay very close to the process. You should never assume that everyone is communicating effectively – or that a procedural flow is occurring like it should be.

We made this mistake!

Apart from dealing with the unfortunate necessary bureaucracy – the other issue which confronted us all, and that I had never really thought about, was the emotional roller-coaster we experienced.

We were constantly asking ourselves; “Have we done the right thing?” and were inundated with feelings of guilt over mum’s potential loneliness, anger, sadness, and finally – visions of our own future.

The good news is that we have found Dallas an aged care home which is close by. This ensures that mum is able to visit him on a regular basis. Dallas is happy and being well looked after, and there is no doubt that his health has improved since the move.

The irony of the current situation is that mum wants to move in as well – believing that Dallas now has it so good that she is the one missing out!

We believe it has more to do with her feelings of loneliness, so to help her overcome these feelings we have decided to buy her a small dog. Meaning she will now have someone to complain and talk to all the time.

No offence meant mum!

The Realise Your Dream blogs are written by Peter Kelly and Mark Teale. More information about the authors can be found here

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