We recently asked the sons and daughters of our elderly clients for their top tips on how to prepare for care of an elderly relative.
What came through clearly was the need to prepare for care needs of an elderly relative, years in advance. Read more on spotting the signs of decline.
The care needs of elderly parents often creep up on us. Before we know it we find ourselves in the thick of trying to work our lives around caring for an elderly family member. Waiting to plan for care until a crisis situation occurs is always a bad idea. Here are top tips from members of the BrightCare family:
Tip 1 – Open The Conversation as Early as Possible
In this country we often don’t like to talk about things like care, particularly if an elderly parent is in good health and spirits. Sometimes older people can view a need for care in their life as a negative development.
It is important to understand that avoiding open and honest conversations about care in later life may have negative consequence further down the line. Taking time to establish your loved one’s personal wishes ensures that their expectations become reality. A few areas that need to be addressed include:
- Housing: what is the suitability of their current home should their mobility decrease?
- Support: is there a good network of family and friends nearby?
- Responsbility: which family members are best placed to provide practical support?
- Finance: what will the costs be and what is our means to pay as a family?
Tip 2 – Research Care Long Before You Need It
In the event of an unexpected crisis, you want to be able to make the best decisions. Without having done your research in advance, you may find yourself opting for a care arrangement that is suboptimal.
For instance, if an elderly loved is admitted to hospital following a fall, it is likely that they will be unable to leave until they have suitable care arrangements in place. Often poor choices are made in a frantic effort just to get them home, which would result in increased relationship pressures and a heavier burden on family members.
The majority of care is delivered by private providers, all of whom can be researched online. Once you have decided whether you are looking for in-home care or a care home, you should then start looking at the services in your area:
- Recommendations: Ask locally for recommendations.
- Search Online: Search local care providers online.
- Shortlist: Create a shortlist of the companies that provide the services you require.
- Check Reports: Check their latest report on the Care Inspectorate website.
- Read Reviews: Look for any reviews and testimonials they have.
- Call Providers: Call providers to ask questions. Read more on the questions you should ask a care provider.
Tip 3 – Start Small and Early with Formal Routine Help
Ease elderly parents into the idea of having care in place over a long period of time. Good ways to do this might include arranging a part time cleaner or companion to help them get out to the shops or take part in groups and activities. Having a long-term weekly routine is important here. Sometimes you might be able to persuade your parents to accept some help if you are going away for a couple of weeks, explaining that having someone local to help will give you peace of mind.
The value of human interactions your loved one can have with non-family members should not be underestimated. Someone who is removed from familial life can be better placed to take situations moment by moment. As there is no history, the relationship can be a refreshing and liberating experience for older people. Getting used to new faces now will also lay foundations for the years ahead when more support in the home might be required.
Tip 4 – Get Your Finances in Order
Families who have effective care arrangements in place may worry that they are unable to sustain the ongoing financial costs. Having accurate knowledge of care costs and the support you may receive from the state will enable you to plan financially. Read more on how to plan financially for care.
Tip 5 – Grow a Thick Skin
We are honoured to serve a proud elderly generation, but often we find that they are (rightly) protective of their independence and so reluctant to accept help. Be prepared to face resistance from a loved one if you suggest that they might need help.
We all want the very best care for our elderly loved ones. They have raised and cared for us, so we want to repay and honour them with our commitment to their fulfilment in later life, according to their wishes. However sometimes, particularly if relations with a loved one are strained, these admirable intentions can be met with some resistance.
Tip 6 – Ensure Healthy Life Balance For You and Your Loved One
It is vital to set some boundaries in your role as care ‘manager’ for a loved one. Burn out and high levels of stress whilst caring for a loved one are very common. Many people fail to realise the impact it can have on them and their own lives.
Give consideration to how you need to balance you and your family’s needs with the needs of your loved on. Set realistic expectations of what you will be able to do yourself. It is simply not possible to do everything alone.
Tip 7 – Set Realistic Social Work Expectations
For many families there is a lot of ‘mystery’ surrounding what the social work department provides for older people. Confusion often reigns because people mistakenly think all social care is provided for free to everyone. These days care from social work is very limited and will often not be fully suitable for your loved one’s needs.
Given the limited finances that social work has, relying on its servicces can be a frustrating experience and significantly reduce your sense of choice and control. If you have the financial means to pay for your own care, social work is generally best avoided, at least until you know exactly what you want a care arrangement to look like. Read more about 5 common misunderstands about direct payments.
Tip 8 – Accept Needs As They Change
The ever changing needs of an elderly loved one can leave you feeling like you are not always on top of things. Sometimes this loss of control can make you feel guilty that you are not able to do more to help.
The day to day reality of caring for elderly loved ones is that we need to respond to their unpredictably changing needs quickly and efficiently. Families often face the uncertainty of not knowing how long a care solution will work for or whether a loved one may take a turn for the worse, potentially throwing an otherwise stable situation into chaos.
We know that families crave the peace of mind that comes with knowing a loved one is in good, capable and professional hands. We strive to give you that sense of, ‘with Sarah here, everything is going to be alright for Mum.’
Honest conversations with family and care professionals about what is working and what is not is crucial. ‘Saying it as it is’ is an essential component of care working well and keeping relationships strong.