‘Auntie was the ‘glue’ in our family’ is how a cousin described my Mum. She was a farmer’s wife, a mother of four, a granny to ten and very much part of the farming folk of the area. So it was a bad day when I arrived for a long overdue visit to discover this ‘Lynch Pin’ of a lady, sitting on a bar stool at the sink with barely the strength to peel carrots. In short – we were in trouble.
Within days the cancer that was destroying her cast her low. Her diagnosis took numerous hospital trips and much effort in order to ‘work the system’ for desperately needed appointments. It was harvest time on the farm; my father, brother and three grandsons were in residence – hungry, dirty men with limited housekeeping talents! My business could be run from a laptop anywhere, but it still needed to be run. But there was never any doubt that we would all be around to help Mum stay at home to the end. To make this happen, we had to get some live-in care and fast.
As luck would have it I had spent a day with a bunch of girlfriends only weeks before where the common topic had been how to get live-in care when parents hit a crisis. Emails flew about for contacts and feedback and I entered the business of private care agencies.
Memories of this are a haze of telephone interviews, endless form filling, efforts to predict what our job description would be and negotiations with the family about arrangements and not least, the finances of private care.
Above all I’d say that if time is on your side get ahead and do all this preparation in advance. Get some word of mouth recommendations, sort out the administration and get registered way ahead of there being any real need. It costs nothing or very little and is well worth it if the proverbial s—t hits the fan! The result inevitably will be a much better match of personalities and experience.
For us we had no lead time and within a few days I found that Universal Aunts asked for very little form filling, gave us short instructions on terms and conditions and assured us that one of their best ladies would soon be on her way to live with us. We drew a sigh of relief, pinning much hope on this stranger being able to relieve us of chores and nourish us with health-giving food, leaving us more time to nurse Mum and surround her with friends and family.
By now I had learnt the expectations for live-in care from the many conversations with the mix of dragons and angels who run private agencies. In short:-
- A bedroom with TV point, WiFi, deskspace, wardrobe and dedicated bed and bath linen.
- Arrangements for time off, time on and days off.
- Insurance for driving the car.
- Credit card arrangements for shopping.
Our Universal Aunt, arrived and put her experience straight into practice by sitting us down and talking through the detail of how her days would work and who would be doing what. She made good suggestions for things that would help Mum in her increasing ill health. Apart from this being an essential briefing for any new help, I’d recommend it for calming the maelstrom of confusion that this sort of crisis puts you into. They’ve done it many times before and their confidence is reassuring.
In practice it was difficult introducing our new help into such a close knit home at short notice but we rubbed along okay for a few weeks and weren’t committed to more than a week’s notice. So if you’re looking for help in an instant, I’d give Universal Aunts a try, 020 7738 8937. With more time I’d recommend going through the hoops that other agencies prefer you to complete in order to select a person that fits well with your home and family. However this inevitably means more form filling, profiling, interviewing, induction and trial periods.
The feedback I’ve had from other friends who’ve also been down this path of using private agency care make other recommendations:-
Dido – for help in Buckinghamshire recommends Oxford Aunts. 01865791017: “I cannot recommend Oxford Aunts in Oxford 01865 791017 more highly. We have used them continuously for the last 7 years, and the lady who runs it, Jo, is excellent at matching needs and personalities. Over the 7 years, needs have changed and she is always one step ahead in finding the right person to fulfil the roles. Every person we have had for Mum and Dad has been good/excellent and one of the best things about them, is that they have stayed. Obviously that has a lot to do with my parents too, who have been very easy to look after, but we have been so lucky there. They stay for months and then maybe go home (often NZ) and then return for another 8-12 months. I would say that is really important when looking for an agency, as it provides really steady continuity in what can be quite an unstable situation. It’s reassuring all round. We did use Universal Aunts at one point, in Beaconsfield and their calibre of carer was not nearly as good as Oxford Aunts. OA cover a wide area, even to Bath.”
Hilary – for help in Cambridgeshire recommends Trinity Home Care 020 7183 4884: “The agency that kept popping up for me was Trinity Home Care but this was 4 years ago and things may have changed.”
Caroline – for help in Norfolk recommends Country Cousins 0800 542 0676: “We used Country Cousins and thought they were excellent. Carers tend to do two week live in shifts followed by another carer who does the same and then the first carer returns so there is continuity of care and the patient then becomes familiar with their carers. In Mum’s case her carer stayed continually for 8 weeks! Towards the end the agency could then provide us with a palliative trained nurse. Basically, depending on what care is needed they can find the right sort of carer on their books and quickly too. My only piece of advice though would be to always check if the carer holds a driving license, our lady didn’t and that was a bit of a pain!”
Lara – for help in London recommends Prestige Nursing 0845 6000 949.
Sarah – for help in Gloucestershire recommends Miracle Workers 01873 881306
Have you had a good or not so good experience with live-in care? Lets us know your recommendations on the Age Space Forum.