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Deciding on the right time to move someone living with dementia into residential aged care can be a difficult decision to make.
It’s a common question that we get through the National Dementia Helpline so we asked two of our Helpline Advisors – Jennifer and Nick – to provide their response.
Of course, everybody’s situation is different so if you are facing this issue or have any other questions for our National Dementia Helpline Advisors, please call us at any time on 1800 100 500.
We also asked Dementia Advocate Dominique to share her family’s experience.
Dominique’s father Noel was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2020 and moved into aged care before sadly passing away in July 2022.
Nick (Helpline Advisor)
One of the things we talk to people a lot about is the decision for someone to go into a residential aged care facility or some other facility other than living at home.
It’s important to remember that words have power.
A lot of times people will say: “I'm putting my mum in a nursing home” or “I've put dad into care”.
Those sentences are really loaded with shame and negativity.
We would suggest reframing that to: “I'm giving my mum the opportunity to have 24-hour care” or “I'm giving my dad the chance to be cared for around the clock by people who know what they're doing”.
Reframing it can actually make it a lot less shameful for a start and it’s more truthful.
You are giving yourself the opportunity to stop being their policeman, their manager, their supervisor, their cleaner upper – all those things – and going back to being their loved one.
Dominique (daughter of Noel who lived with vascular dementia)
Once someone enters aged care, that’s not the end of the caring journey, it’s a new phase.
I was the one who told Dad he was going into care which was heartbreaking. It became unsafe for Dad to be at home, Mum was exhausted and he needed 24-hour care.
I think it’s important to know that just because someone is going into permanent care, that it isn’t the end of your role as a carer.
You’re still caring for that person, it’s just a different phase of that caring journey.
You can assist staff to know more about your loved one by sharing things they enjoy, their grooming preferences or making a memory book about them to help others engage in conversations.
These things give your loved one dignity, an ability to connect with others, and help them to retain their sense of self and feel more at home.
Managing Dad’s care was stressful and challenging, constantly researching the disease and its phases to prevent issues before they occurred and striving for the best care possible in often challenging circumstances.
All the while, I was making sure to find time to connect with Dad to keep him engaged and remind him that he was loved.
Balancing this all while trying to keep on top of my own life was stressful and challenging, but I’d do it all again for my Dad.
Jennifer (Helpline Advisor)
The decision whether to move your loved one into residential care is a really hard one.
You might feel guilt, you might feel ashamed or you might wish you'd done things differently.
You just may wish that they weren't living like this.
There is no right or wrong decision.
What's right for your situation may look different for someone else.
Sometimes the person living with dementia needs that 24/7 professional care that just cannot happen at home.
Where to find help and further information
If you have any questions or want to talk through what you are experiencing, please contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
The Helpline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
You can also view the Dementia Australia Library Service’s guide “Considering residential aged care”, which includes books, audio books, help sheets, videos and other information.