The roller coaster emotional ride into aged care

The simple truth is that people avoid thinking and doing anything about the care they need in their elderly years until the very last minute. Data from Faster Horses’ Inside Aged Care 2018 Report shows that even among those in their 70s, 19% (that’s 1 in 5!) had not given any consideration to their aged care needs.

As the baby boomer population moves into requiring aged care services, there is an increasing need to bring forward conversations around requirements, preparing our elderly population for the next stage of their lives. Early, open conversations are important to minimise the emotional reactions we see evident today.

Right now, the dominant emotions linked to the thought of engaging with the aged care sector is concern and apprehension. While a tertiary emotion is feeling cared for, an equal number feel sad.

This is largely because a move into care takes place at a moment of crisis … and there is little trust in the industry (only 18% of Australians have trust in the industry), exacerbating these negative emotions.

It is interesting to have a look at how emotions change across the age groups. This gives us enormous insights into the transition into ageing and the emotions that accompany each stage. The chart below shows us:

  • The majority of 60 year olds (9 in 10) have yet to begin using aged care services.  But they are beginning to consider what’s on the horizon – and what they see concerns them.
  • Many negative emotions reach a peak in the 60s, including concern, apprehension, sadness, vulnerability, and confusion. 
  • It’s worth noting that those in their 60s also have significant concerns around the industry’s openness and transparency, believe it’s not well-regulated, and find the pricing model confusing. It is therefore no surprise that negativity dominates emotions.
  • But as people begin to access aged care services in their 70s and 80s, negative emotions recede somewhat (though concern remains high). There seems to be more of an acceptance of the need for assistance in the later years, although reaching this point is challenging.

What does this tell us?

  1. The industry urgently needs to improve the services being offered, to overcome the lack of trust, and the plethora of other negative sentiments evident about the industry broadly.
  2. We can try to encourage earlier conversations around requirements as we all move into our later years, to avoid or at least mitigate the depth of emotion around the decisions needing to be made, inevitably in a crisis.
  3. This will also alleviate some of the anxiety that surrounds management of a move into aged care at a moment of crisis – an enormous challenge for the industry and the individuals involved!

Further information about the Inside Aged Care Report, please contact Veronica Mayne at Faster Horses on veronica@fasterhorses.consulting. The 2nd edition of the report is to be released in September 2019.

You will also find this article in the latest edition of Fusion Magazine, LASA’s voice of aged care publication.