Over the past three years, Rita Merienne has been served up some tough times – the sudden death of a sibling, a relationship breakdown, illnesses in her family and an ageing father who needed care.
It was when navigating the aged care system, Rita and her two sisters were sent for a sixer. The journey of finding a place for their dad to live amidst the minefield of forms, decisions and emotions evolved into a book to help others avoid some of the pain they endured.
Rita and her sister Yvonne have written a book Tough…Tough Times…Tough Decisions sharing their experiences and providing suggestions on how to deal with particular situations to help ease the transition to aged care.
“Transitioning our father to aged care taught us many things. We want to help others understand and deal with the emotions of navigating the aged care system,” Rita said.
“We want to be the voice of logic during a time of confusion and heightened emotions. It is not easy putting a parent into aged care or caring for them at home. There is so much no one tells you and there is not a lot of information to help.”
Roles have changed – the carer is being cared for by the cared. Tough…Tough Times…Tough Decisions shares Rita’s family’s experiences, providing suggestions on how to deal with particular situations.
“Aged care is a minefield of emotions that saps the energy out of everyone, not just your aged loved one. It affects everyone,” Rita said.
“There is a lot of advice about what type of care and how to pay for it but we found there is very little professional advice or help with the emotions of moving your loved one to care.
“The information we have put together for you is what we wish somebody had told us before we moved our father into aged care to ease our transition.”
Rita said it is confronting to suddenly find yourself the carer of caring for an elderly person. “Our mother passed away in 2006 and we found ourselves the proud carers of an 87 year old,” she said.
“There were some real tough times and my family had to make some tough decisions regarding our father’s care.”
After Rita’s dad was diagnosed with macular degeneration, he made the decision to go into care. “We are a small family and had to find a way to make it work for all of us. Our older sister Marilyn lived on the Gold Coast, so she looked after dad’s day-to-day care and my sister (who lives in Adelaide) and me in Canberra supported her,” Rita said.
“Any stuff that we needed to raise with dad, which he might get upset about, I would do it. We had a good system going until out of the blue, Marilyn got a cold and within days she was gone.”
While Rita and her family should have been sitting beside Marilyn’s bedside, they were sorting out power of attorney paperwork. “Marilyn was dad’s power of attorney; she had all the information – his bank details, doctor’s appointments. We learnt the hard way that you really need more than one power of attorney because you never know what life will throw at you,” Rita said.
Making the decision to move her dad to Canberra to be closer to her, Rita took on more and more, losing herself. “I had a meltdown trying to look after everyone and everything,” she said.
“Instead of curling upon the couch, I poured my feelings into a journal, which became Tough…Tough Times…Tough Decisions.”
Out of the book, a membership site evolved - The ACE Method - Aged Care with Ease, which is packed with information sheets, medical care diary, checklists and other information.
Rita said everything they have created is aimed at people over 50. “Especially those who find themselves caring for teenagers and ageing parents either in their home of aged care,” she said.
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