Slowing down, relying on others for support — they’re not the types of things we want to chat about over the dinner table.
Yet that’s exactly what aged care provider, Sundale, is trying to encourage with one of its programs, to help families ease into this sometimes difficult conversation.
“Our toolkit, aptly named ‘Death over Dinner’, is for people to come together over a meal and raise the subject of death and planning for illnesses that may arise as you age,” explains Sundale’s Community Services Manager, Katie Brown.
Working with Sundale’s concierge service, Katie has seen first-hand the stress felt by families who put off such conversations until a loved one reaches a crisis point. She encourages families to talk about their care preferences when everyone is fit and well.
“Take stock of what’s going on for your loved ones by observing how they look, their sense of wellbeing and the state of their home,” she suggests. “If things don’t seem to be the way they once were, these might be good soft entry points to start the conversation.”
An important part of the discussion, Katie adds, is to let people make their own decisions. “A great question we use with our clients is ‘tell me something you used to do that you really enjoy, but haven’t been able to do recently’. This opens up a conversation that isn’t confronting and helps the family member to think about the type of support the older person might need.”
Other questions include where the older person would prefer to live, whether they’ll have access to their social networks as well as health and support services, and whether they might need to sell the family home.
If people do sell their home, there are financial aspects to consider, says Daniel Callaghan, a Financial Planner at HESTA. “Will a change of property require more money, or will there be money left over? If there is money left over, how will they use it?”
Daniel also suggests that people should discuss what they want to achieve during their own retirement. “Do you want to travel, or perhaps help out your children? Look at what assets you have — whether it’s your super or the Age Pension — and how it will meet your retirement plans.”
The earlier you can work out what your retirement might look like and what it could cost, Daniel adds, the earlier you’ll know whether you need to save or invest more. “Certainly by the time you turn 50, you should be focusing on what your life will be like in retirement.”