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What help do my parents need? A Practical Guide

What help do my parents need? A Practical Guide

Most older people want to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, but it can become challenging for a number of physical, mental and practical reasons. Once you’ve identified that your elderly parents need some extra support, the next step is working out what can be done to help them remain safe and happy in their own home.

Your parents will probably want to be involved in planning for their care.  They may be a bit – or indeed very – resistant to change. This may be your biggest hurdle. Unless there is an urgent safety or medical need, one idea is to start with less intrusive approaches, like more cleaning help – particularly if this is from someone already known and who already has access to the home. 

This practical guide will help you to quickly navigate the key areas of the Age Space site – from useful advice on home adaptations  to services that may be helpful. Below are some of our key care considerations. 

Family support

There are a number of ways that family members can get involved with parental care, from being on hand 24 hours a day to dropping in regularly to keep someone company to preparing meals. It might be useful to organise a visiting rota, especially if some family live further away than others. It might seem a bit formal but it can help everyone feel they’re sharing the responsibility. In some more urgent medical cases, such as a fall or after a major operation, you might want to consider moving in as a temporary arrangement or having them come and stay with you. 

Communication is absolutely key for everyone involved. Keep your parents very much involved in any decisions and share information with all relevant family members.  Read our useful advice on dealing with changes to family dynamics, especially managing the parent/child role reversal as mum and dad get older. 

If you’re considering asking your parents or elderly relative to move in with you, take a look at our helpful checklist and key questions to ask beforehand.

Get a Care Plan in place

Talk to their GP and arrange a needs and financial assessment from local social services. That will result in a Care Plan. The local authority will provide details of how to find that care and if eligible they will fund part or all of the care that they recommend.

Home safety

There are lots of ways to make the home a safer place for elderly parents. This can include installing stair lifts or specially-made mobility baths, improving lighting, and clearing clutter. Age UK has a useful Home Safety Checker list to download.

Find out everything you need to know about improving home safety from our guide to Making the Home Safe

Medical Support

Whether it’s an ongoing medical condition or someone becoming frailer after an illness, operation or fall – medical needs will impact the level of care and support needed.

There are many NHS local services available to the elderly.  Whilst there may be a waiting list and endless paperwork, these services should be available for your parents when needed and knowing what might be available can help. 

NHS Dementia Care Services

The GP surgery is the best place to start for medical support. Read the Age Space guide to NHS services if you want to know more about medical services.

Cognitive health

Dementia and cognitive decline can be confusing, frightening and frustrating for the person with the condition and those caring for them. If you have concerns about your parent’s mental capacity, we have a wealth of information about dementia and dementia care options available for you to read.

If your relative is showing signs of confusion, it does not necessarily mean that they have dementia. Another condition that you should be aware of, and looking out for, is delirium. Delirium is a state of confusion caused by another underlying health problem, and is therefore treatable. Learn more from the Age Space Guide to Delirium.

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Mobility

If your relative’s level of mobility has changed, issues like getting out to the shops, the doctor’s surgery or even around the house will affect the kind of care they may need. You may want to look into mobility products that can help them to move around comfortably and safely. 

Learn more about products that could help your relative from our Complete Guide to Mobility Aids.

Driving safely in old age is also an important, but difficult, topic to raise. We have some great advice on why and when someone should stop driving, where to find good advice on car adaptations and how to have that difficult conversation with your parents/relatives about whether or not they should continue driving. 

Mobility for older people

Personal hygiene

Difficulties with small things like washing can often be the first sign of needing some more help. Bathing your parents might be something neither of you are comfortable with and completely understandable for both parties involved. You can employ carers to come in at particular times of the day to help with all aspects of personal care and hygiene. Here’s our guide to finding and employing a care agency, including information on costs. 

Meal preparation

If you are worried that mum or dad are struggling to make their own meals, there are a number of meal delivery services providing ready-made meals which only require heating. Here are some ideas for healthy eating in older age and practical tips for helping someone with dementia eat well

Social interaction

There’s more and more evidence that social connections are good not only for mental health, but also for keeping well physically.

If your relative seems socially isolated, making a point of regular contact with family members, giving them lifts to see friends and finding local groups or networks that they would enjoy can help. You may be interested in reading our guide to Keeping Elderly Parents Busy.

Social life for older people

if your elderly parent or relative is house bound or nervous going outdoors during the colder months, you might want to look into introducing them to the world wide web! From how to send an email and open pictures, to using social platforms like Facebook to video calling on Skype, Zoom or Whatsapp – these are all non-intrusive opportunities for keeping in touch and checking that everything’s OK. We have lots of great ‘how to’ guides on the site. 

And if my parents refuse help?

Many people are not sure what to do when elderly parents refuse help. If your parents is point-blank refusing help, here’s a blog about what you can do.

Do you have experience of realising that relatives can no longer cope? Share your wisdom or look for ideas from others on our friendly forum.

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