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Do your elderly parents need help?

6th February 2019

It’s not always easy to know when your elderly parent need help, or to identify what help would make the most difference. Here we provide lots of ideas and guidance for a range of issues you may encounter.

You don’t have to be on your own, there is lots of help available through charities, local organisations, social services and the GP surgery.

We have covered some ideas for you to think about:

Checklist

These six questions will help you identify the time when your parent is no longer coping with living independently.

  1. Take a look around the house. Are items out of place? Is the house clean? Is there a pile of laundry waiting to be done? Is there post unopened?
  2. Personal hygiene. Has this slipped, are they usually well groomed? Are they wearing clean clothes, are they looking after themselves? Can they still bath/shower? It may be worth broaching this question directly; as mobility reduces, this is often a real challenge.
  3. Take a look in the fridge to make sure food is in date and to see if they appear to be eating regular meals. Are they still able to cook or heat food safely?
  4. Can they still get up and down stairs if they have them? Are they able to walk to shops or public transport, or to drive themselves safely?
  5.  If they take medication, do they have dosette boxes for their pills and do they appear to be taking their medication regularly.
  6. Hobbies and socialising. Are they still doing activities they have enjoyed until now? Are they getting out to see friends or taking part in activities?

If the answers to these questions give you cause for concern, suggesting that your parent is no longer coping, you may need to take things slowly. Your decision could be about whether they are well enough to stay in their own home – or it could be about which care home will look after them best.

Start off by suggesting to your parent that you think they may benefit from some cleaning help at first. This will allow you to judge whether they are willing to accept help. If they appear happy to accept extra support to allow them to continue to live independently investigate other help such as Care Agencies, food delivery, Care Homes, Dial-a-Ride services.

You should also talk to your parent’s GP, and/or arrange for a needs and financial assessment from their local social services.  This will provide your parent with a plan regarding the care that they need. 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.

Care options

There are a number of options for care at home for those who are making their own arrangements. You also have the option of having your parents move in with you. We look at some of the choices.

NHS

Care at home: There are many good reasons to consider hiring a carer for your parent. You get a say in choosing the person you want to care for your elderly relative, and you can guarantee that they will look after them every day.

Another option is a Home Care Agency which provides support and assistance to people in their own home. They help in whatever way is required to enable living independently for as long as possible. You can find more helpful information on the UK Care Guide website.

Care homes: If you find yourself choosing a care home as the best option, there are many feelings you have to deal with and factors to consider. There are different kinds of homes providing different levels of care and support, here’s what to consider:

Don’t be misled by the grandeur of some care homes: Think about what your parent will need, do they really need somewhere palatial or spacious?  Depending on their health and capabilities these may not be priorities. Firstly your parent needs to feel comfortable and secure, a home from home feeling as much as possible.

Find a care home that offers a range of facilities for different needs: Your parent may be in good health, but this may decline over time. So, think ahead to ensure that the care home you pick is suitably equipped and has staff trained to deal with every eventuality.

Price may be an influential factor but ideally it shouldn’t be a determining factor: A home should be comfortably within your budget. When it comes to the right place for your parents, cost is not so important.

Community

Choose a care home with end of life care if possible: Depending on your parent’s health give consideration to a care home offering end of life care. It’s reassuring to know that your parent won’t have to move again if and when the time came. Choosing a care home with end of life care means your parent will not have to be taken to hospital or transferred to a strange environment. They can continue to feel at home and comfortable in their last weeks of life. There is more really helpful information on this topic on the Which? Elderly Care site.

You may feel guilty: It’s natural to feel remorseful when moving your parent from somewhere familiar to an unfamiliar setting. Hopefully they will see that it is the right thing to do and the best thing for them.

Moving in with you: This may be an option you feel strongly about, but there is a lot to consider before you finally make this decision.  For instance – do you have the right space? If your only spare room is up in the attic this obviously isn’t going to work.

There needs to be enough space so that all the family feel they can still have, and respect each other’s’, privacy while your parent retains a certain level of independence. The more you do for them the more dependent they may become on you. You need to think about all the practicalities and whether you are willing to give up an increasing amount of time to care for them.

A parent living with you is going to be a big change for everyone involved so it needs to be a full family decision.

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