Resident in home

Caring for someone in an aged care home

Deciding to move into an aged care home is often a time of stress, high emotion, a longing for the past and uncertainty about the future. It is a challenging and emotional decision for the person moving and their family, friends and carers. This is particularly the case when you, as carer, find that you can no longer provide the level of support needed for them to remain living at home.

Even though it may be agreed by all that moving to an aged care home is the best outcome, you are likely to have a range of strong emotions. As a carer you may face some unsettling issues. There will be changes in your routine and lifestyle. For example, you may have feelings of guilt or be worried about whether or not the right decisions have been made. You may also miss the companionship, but at the same time you may be relieved to share the caring role.

The move into an aged care home may also raise financial or legal concerns.

It's important to know that this range of emotions and concerns are normal, and many others have faced them as well. Some of the tips below may help you work your way through this difficult time.

How do I know if we're making the right decision?

Everyone's situation is different but it's quite normal for you to be asking yourself the following questions:

  • Will the person I care for be looked after properly?
  • What will other people think of me?
  • Have I done everything I could?
  • Am I a failure because I can't care for them at home anymore?
  • What will I do with my life when I'm not so busy?

It can be hard to think about your own needs, but it's important to be realistic and try to decide what's best for everyone, including you. Only you can decide if the responsibility of caring is too much for you. Carers in similar situations suggest the following tips:

  • trying to talk to someone who's a good listener about your circumstances
  • allowing others to help you work through your feelings
  • considering carer counselling services to help you through the transition.

Will my role as a carer continue?

You can still continue to help out and care for the person you have been looking after once they have moved into an aged care home.

You will probably have to provide care in partnership with health care professionals. This may sometimes be difficult, especially if you haven't had much previous experience working with them.

One way of thinking about working with these health professionals is to consider yourself as an important part of a team. The team can include nurses, pharmacists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech pathologists, dietitians, diversional therapists, podiatrists and social workers, as well as the person's doctor and medical specialists. But as a carer you're an important member of that team, not just for the emotional and social support you provide.

Other carers have offered the following tips:

  • know who the health professionals are. Get written information about names, organisation and titles and the role they have in the treatment of the person you care for
  • take someone with you to appointments to be an extra listener
  • take notes
  • make up a list of questions so you won't forget anything
  • keep a diary of your family member's problems or symptoms
  • ask for information to be written down, particularly about their diagnosis or medications
  • ask if your health professional can give you any printed material or tell you where to obtain further information or support
  • make an appointment without the person you're caring for being there. Even though the health professional may not be able to discuss their details, you'll be able to talk about your concerns
  • ask the receptionist to book a longer appointment if you feel there is never enough time. However, it's worth remembering that some health professionals charge extra for a longer consultation
  • speak up for yourself and the person you care for.

More information:

Read more about counselling and support for carers and considerations for living in an aged care home.

If the person you are caring for is going to an aged care home, you can find out more about professional care on Carer Gateway.

Last reviewed: 30 June, 2015.