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. The GP surgery is the best place to start.
District or community nurses provide nursing care for people who need help to remain in their own homes. This might be ongoing nursing support or it could be short term after discharge from hospital. Services include providing wound care, supporting catheter care, and administering complex medication within a patient’s home. They work with the local GP practice and with all the other community health and social care professionals such as occupational therapists, continence clinics, physiotherapists, social workers.
Occupational therapy supports people whose health prevents them from doing the activities that matter to them. An Occupational Therapist identifies difficulties your elderly parent may have in everyday life, such as dressing or getting to the shops. They will help work out practical solutions to these problems. They are also able to provide or recommend equipment which can help with tasks or general mobility. A GP, nurse or social worker will usually refer your parent to an occupational therapist if required.
Physiotherapy helps restore movement and function when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability. Physiotherapists treat people of all ages, helping them manage pain and using a number of methods to aid recovery. As with occupational therapists, the GP or hospital will usually refer your parent if they could benefit from physiotherapy.
If your parent prefers not to talk to their GP about continence problems they (or you) can make an appointment directly with their local continence clinic. There are over 360 of them across the UK, with specialist teams providing support and medical advice for people with bowel or bladder incontinence. Continence clinics are often based in a hospital or in the community, often attached to a health centre. On a first visit, a continence adviser, a specialist nurse will assess your parent and explain your incontinence treatment options. To find the nearest clinic call the Bladder and Bowel Foundation confidential helpline on 0845 345 0165.
If your parent has had several falls and the GP thinks they may be at high risk of falling again (which brings with it many other risks of fracture and then infection), they will be referred to a specialist falls clinic. They provide them with exercises and strategies to prevent falls in future. The clinic will refer your parent to occupational therapy to get an assessment of their home and to suggest any equipment which could help them.
For more detailed information about the above services, or any other health professionals not covered here go to the excellent NHS Choices website. You might also be interested in our sections, Hiring a carer and Employing a care agency.