We are all living longer and we are all getting older. Once we reach middle-age we might well find ourselves wondering about the well-being of our parents or other elderly relatives.
While your relative has choices about where and how care is provided, he or she may also have to make compromises. For example:
- If your relative cannot climb the stairs, would he or she want to live downstairs in the house, install a stair lift or move to ground-floor accommodation?
- If your relative is very frail, does he or she want to stay at home and risk being isolated – and possibly frightened – or move to extra care housing or a care home and risk being with people he or she may not like? # Should care be provided at home or in a care home? While his or her lifestyle can be maintained at home, it may not be the same level of care as would be provided in a care home and your relative may get very worried if carers do not turn up as arranged.
The role of a relative can be a difficult one. Most relatives do not live with the older person, but still act as the main contact and organiser when help and support are needed. Each person will find his or her own ways of dealing with the problems of regular visiting as well as telephoning, sudden crises and negotiating relationships with other family members, while trying to encourage the older person to continue doing as much as possible for themselves. We’ve listed the main alternatives below.
Staying in your own home
Most people choose to stay at home for as long as possible. If your relative is having difficulty coping, there are now an increasing number of services that can help. These include carers, alarm systems, equipment, alterations to the home, meals at home, day centres and services to meet health-related needs. Older people who want to stay at home are often those who have (or develop) a local support network, including family, friends and neighbours.
Retirement housing is self-contained, easily managed housing usually with some communal facilities and support on-hand if needed. It is available for people over a minimum age, usually 55 or 60, and can be rented from the council, a housing association or charity, rented privately, purchased leasehold or as shared ownership (part rented/part bought) from a housing association.
Retirement housing appeals to people who value the safety and security it offers, are happy to pass the responsibility for maintenance and repairs of the building and upkeep of the garden to a management organisation and who like living with people of their own age. It is also a popular choice by people who are away from home for long periods, such as those lucky enough to spend winters in warmer climes, and like to know that their home is safe in their absence.
Extra care housing
This is a form of retirement housing with personal care, meals and 24-hour support available for those that need it. Extra care housing can be rented from the council or a housing association, purchased leasehold or as shared ownership from a housing association. Extra care housing is sometimes called very sheltered housing, close care, assisted living or a retirement village. It appeals to people who like company and need the reassurance of knowing that support and help with personal care and meals is available now or in the future. It is particularly useful for couples who have different needs and it can sometimes offer an alternative to a care home.
A care home is a residential establishment that provides accommodation, meals and care for vulnerable older people. There are two types of care home:
- Care homes providing personal care, which used to be known as residential homes. These provide living accommodation, meals, help with personal care, such as dressing, supervision of medication, companionship and someone on-call at night.
- Care homes providing nursing care, which used to be known as nursing homes. These provide personal and nursing care 24 hours a day for people who are bedridden, very frail or have a medical condition or illness that means they need regular attention from a nurse.
A move to a care home can offer company and a safe and comfortable environment. It can also be a big relief to someone who needs a lot of care and has been struggling to cope at home, or who has become isolated and frightened or who is suffering from severe memory problems. It can also relieve the stress on relatives and carers.
So there you have it, what choice is made is down to individual choice, finances and needs. It’s likely that all parties will have to make compromises of some kind but surely the happiness of the elderly relative is paramount.
NOTE – The above article has been written from a UK viewpoint. Options will be different in other parts of the world