Doutta GallaNews – In My Shoes: Peter Kent

In My Shoes: Peter Kent

July 11, 2024

Members of Doutta Galla’s Board share their personal journeys in our new series, “In My Shoes.”
Doutta Galla Board Member Peter Kent, a highly respected figure in Australian communications with over 35 years of experience, dives into the complexities of aged care. Drawing from his personal experiences navigating the system for loved ones, Peter shares insights on the emotional toll, importance of planning, and the need for strong partnerships between families, providers, and residents for a positive outcome.

 

Beyond the Boardroom: Peter Kent on Facing Aged Care and Why You Need to Be Prepared

Peter Kent, a Doutta Galla Board member with a long career in communication and community service, understands the complexities of aged care firsthand. Witnessing several loved ones’ transition into residential care, he offers a candid look at the system’s challenges and the importance of collaboration for quality care.

Peter’s parents, Mick (deceased) and Steph (in residential care) pictured in 1949. The pair had five children. There are now 10 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren….and still counting.
Navigating the “Frankenstein’s Monster” of Aged Care Systems

“We’ve navigated aged care multiple times recently,” Peter reflects, “each experience unique.” He emphasises the common frustration: “The system feels like a Frankenstein’s monster,” he says, “testing everyone’s patience and goodwill.”

“But the important distinction is to separate the system from the care provider. The bad guys are not the care providers. The difficulties are the mostly not unreasonable but poorly-designed bureaucratic demands of getting a loved one into care.”

Common Reasons for Entering Aged Care

Several factors typically lead to placing a loved one in care. A decline in health or cognitive function, often sudden, can trigger the decision. “There’s often an exhausted primary caregiver, usually a spouse,” Peter explains. Respite care, meant for temporary relief, can sometimes be the first step towards a more permanent solution. Proximity to family and support networks is crucial for both immediate needs and fostering a sense of connection. Ultimately, finding a care environment that caters to the individual’s needs, with qualified staff and a supportive atmosphere, is key.

The Emotional Toll of Transitioning a Loved One

“Transitioning a loved one can be emotionally demanding,” Peter acknowledges. He describes his most positive experience as one where the family openly acknowledged the need for change, prepared well in advance, and maintained open communication. “Transparency, mutual support, and active negotiation with service providers were crucial.” However, Peter admits not all experiences are equal. “The absence of these factors,” he says, “can be heartbreaking and cause lasting family strain.”

Choosing the right aged care home goes beyond the physical aspects. “The most important question, often overlooked,” Peter says, “is whether it will feel like home for your loved one.” This goes beyond bricks and mortar; it’s about creating a sense of belonging. “While cost, location, and medical support matter,” Peter says, “consider what truly matters – familiar belongings, sunlight, a garden, or even beloved pets.” Unfortunately, urgent situations often force families to prioritise immediate needs over long-term comfort.

Be Prepared: Planning for Aged Care

Peter’s advice is clear: “Be prepared.” He recommends addressing legal, financial, and medical matters well in advance to avoid last-minute scrambling. “It’s like planting a tree,” Peter says, quoting a proverb. “The best time was 20 years ago, the next best time is today.”

Navigating the complexities of aged care can be overwhelming, especially during a crisis. While acknowledging the system’s imperfections, Peter believes strong partnerships are essential. “For the happiness and security of your loved one, build a productive partnership between the care provider, family, and the person being cared for.”

Shared Responsibility and Emotional Support

Finally, Peter underscores the importance of shared responsibility and emotional support. “Find agreement, share the load, and be your best self,” he advises. “Remember, everyone involved is facing a challenge. Be kind to yourselves and each other.”

Peter’s experience sheds light on the realities of aged care and offers valuable insights for families facing similar challenges. By fostering open communication, planning ahead, and building strong partnerships, we can ensure a smoother transition and a more positive experience for both residents and their loved ones.

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