When faced with the decision that one or both of your parents or a loved one needs elderly care support, many of us feel overwhelmed by what lays ahead. Looking after an elderly parent is a huge responsibility and one that needs careful consideration. However, with careful planning and being able to access the right support, it can be very satisfying and rewarding for family carers who are looking after the elderly in their own home. We explain all the steps you can take to prepare yourself for looking after an elderly person, how you can ensure a healthy lifestyle for yourself and what types of care services are available to help support you and your loved one.
There are some immediate steps you can take to prepare yourself for looking after an elderly parent:
Discuss what is needed with other family members. The chances are that as a family you can come together to support each other in either practical or financial ways.
As well as getting a needs assessment for your loved one with your local authority, access a carer’s assessment for yourself. This will determine what help and support is available to you, including respite care or other help with your caring role, information on support groups and advice on any equipment that would make your role as family carer easier.
If you are working, be sure to tell your employer about your caring role. It is important that they understand your commitments outside of work so they can support you. They will then understand that you will need to take time for appointments and may be able to offer you a more flexible working arrangement.
Register as a carer with your GP. This will ensure they can offer additional support to you, be more flexible with appointment times to fit in with you and provide you with more proactive support to maintain your own health and well-being.
Caring for someone can, at times be lonely and many can feel isolated in their role as a family carer. This is not uncommon. However, there are several different organisations that you can turn to for support, including:
Age UK provide a wealth of support both online and in local communities
Organisations like Carers UK, who provide specific support to family carers across the country
Planning to look after an elderly parent
It is essential that you start by planning how you will provide elderly care support, and you think about whether you are going to take on the responsibility alone, or other family members will be involved. Plan what support you need by researching car options, so you can make an informed choice about how to look after your elderly parent at home.
We know through our experience that planning your decision now, in advance of when a decision simply must be made, promises a much better outcome for you and your loved one. Planning care in a pressured situation or in an emergency or crisis means that any care arrangement that may be put in place may be rushed.
Everyone’s care needs are unique, so it is important that your loved ones’ care needs are assessed by your local authority so you can develop a plan of care as early as possible. The care plan will then guide you to provide the right level of care to your loved one. Engaging your loved one in this process is critical. This means they will feel involved in the decisions that need to be taken so are more likely to respond well when care is provided.
The care assessment is free to anyone over the age of 18 and will identify what is required to help you loved one with day-to-day tasks. Following the assessment, they will make recommendations, which may include:
Equipment required, like a personal alarm or a walking frame
Practical help needed from you or a paid carer
Home adaptations that would make life easier for your loved one, like a walk-in shower or grab rails in the hallway
Day care services available, or lunch clubs that your loved one can attend to give you a respite from your caring role
A care plan will then detail the daily tasks that your loved one needs to complete and the support that is required to enable them to live as independently as possible. It will capture everything from the support they need with getting up, washed and dressed, through to what times they need to eat or to take medication, but also how they wish enjoy social time and activities.
Financial planning to look after elderly parents at home
Whether you choose to look after an elderly parent at home or receive professional care there are financial considerations. If you have decided to look after your loved one, you may be forced to consider your employment situation and reduce the hours you work, which may not be financially viable for you. It is then worth looking at this in line with whether there is an any funding available to you to have care at home.
You may be entitled to healthcare funding through your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) if your loved one has an identified healthcare need. Depending on their financial circumstances they may qualify for all or part social care funding from your local authority.
If you do not qualify for any funding, you will be required to pay for the care yourself, this is referred to as self-funding care. There are many options as to how you can finance the care yourself and care fees insurance policies that could pay your care fees over the longer term. It might be that you qualify for some funding to meet your care and support costs, and that you part fund the remainder yourself.
You may be eligible to claim carers allowance, if you spend at least 35 hours a week caring for them. This would include help you provide with washing and cooking, helping with household tasks and managing bills and shopping and accompanying them to doctors’ visits and other appointments.
Get into a routine
It is important if you are providing elderly care support for a loved one, that you get into a routine. This will benefit both you and your loved one. Having a daily routine that you both agree, will help you settle into life looking after them and they also know what to expect from you. This could be when they wake, rest and go to bed, when medications are taken and what activities and socialisation you are going to support them with. This routine, which could cover daily and weekly tasks, but also other appointments and engagements can all be captured in the plan of care. It will help you come together to ensure you are both happy with what is happening and what is expected by who.
Creating a routine, may require an honest discussion between you and your loved one. People do not want to be cared for it is something that they need, so a sensitive approach will need to be adopted by you. You will also need to be open and honest about the care you can provide, given your own personal commitments, which may mean of course they need to be cared for by a carer at home during certain times, for example if they need 24-hour care or overnight care.
Look after your own health
If you are caring for a loved one, it can become very time-consuming and will impact on the time you have available for your own life. This can have a negative effect on your own health and mental well-being. It is critical that you get time to yourself to maintain your own personal life to protect well-being, ensuring your get sufficient rest and sleep so that you do not burn out. Being exhausted and tired is likely to have a detrimental effect on your ability to care for your loved one. If you are providing elderly care support, ensure you are getting at least seven hours sleep every night and you do all the right things to protect your health and well-being. For example, ensuring you eat a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet and exercise regularly, even if it just a brisk walk. It will help to balance your levels of stress while ensuring you keep fit and healthy.
You may wish to consider a respite care at home service, that will enable you to take a break from the routine of caring for your loved one. Many family carers still need time to work or catch up on your own life, or they simply need a rest to recharge. Respite care provided by a live-in carer can give you the opportunity to decide whether a more permanent arrangement would work for you and to see how live-in care works in practice.
“The care my mother has received has been genuine and to a very high standard. She is supported to maintain choice and the carers are matched perfectly. The Good Care Group have given us much support when we needed it most.”
Doing your research
When you are preparing to look after an elderly parent it is important to prepare as much as possible and researching how to find support in your local community.
Community support groups
Many local charities will run support networks in your loved one’s community. These groups will mean that you and your loved one can meet people in the same situation, so you can share experiences and learn from each other, whilst providing each other with support.
Charities that run groups in your local area include Age UK and the Alzheimer’s Society. There will be other local carers forums depending on where your loved one lives. These can be easily searched on Google to find out what is available or ask their GP or health professional.
If your loved one is living with dementia, depending on where they are in the country you may be able to access an Admiral Nurse. An Admiral Nurse is a specialist dementia nurse from the charity, Dementia UK. They will work in the community to provide those living with dementia and their families with practical and emotional support.
There are several free online resources and care guides that can help you when looking after the elderly:
If you are looking after an elderly parent and getting around is a problem for you, there are community support groups who can help you with transportation. This means you and your loved one can maintain as much independence as possible. This may be transport to appointments, a visit into town or going to a day centre. Groups like Age UK, the Royal Voluntary Service and services run by your local authority can all help with transportation.
You can make home adaptations and changes to their home to make it safer and easier for your loved one to move around and complete day-to-day tasks. These small changes can provide both of you much-needed peace of mind. Your local authority can arrange an assessment of your loved one’s home and then make recommendations, which many include:
Installing a banister or stairlift
Widening doorways to make the use of mobility aids easier
Lowering worktops in the kitchen
Fitting a walk-in shower if using the bath is difficult
Installing an outdoor ramp or step
Fitting grab rails in the hallway
Improving security lighting
Installing an intercom
Considering professional care
Caring for a loved one who may be living with increasing needs, that impact their independence can really take its toll. There is nothing wrong in admitting that the situation is becoming difficult or challenging for you, and you need the support of professional care. While many of us had always vowed to look after our parents in older age until the end of their life, sadly deteriorating health and the impact of other elderly conditions, like dementia make it no longer safe or practical. It is worth acknowledging that by putting a suitable long-term care arrangement in place it allows you to go back to being the loving son or daughter you used to be, with care and support being provided by a specialist carer. This can improve the quality of life not only for your loved one, but for you.
When researching care available to the elderly, it is important that you understand the differences between different types of providers. There are two options available to you; a regulated service provider, whose service is registered and inspected by the health and social care regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Then there are agencies, whose service is not inspected by the regulator and whose carers will be self-employed.
When arranging care at home you will need to consider how much involvement you want in managing the care your loved one receives. A fully managed service is just that. You will benefit from carers that are employed and typically stay in their roles longer offering continuity of care. Carers go through comprehensive training before they are placed with a client, so you have reassurance that they have the skills and aptitude to look after your elderly parent. In addition, you will receive management and supervision of the service provided by your professional carer. We know that families that receive our fully managed live-in care service, are provided with the much-needed peace of mind and reassurance at a time they need it most. A fully managed service like ours is also regulated.
The Good Care Group is the only dedicated live-in care provider in England to achieve an ‘Outstanding’ rating by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) across all five categories – safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led. In Scotland our service has been inspected by the Care Inspectorate (CI), receiving the highest rating of a 6 (Excellent) for Quality of Care and Support and 5 (Very Good) for Staffing and Management and Leadership. We know this provides families with peace of mind that their loved one is receiving the best possible care.
In contrast, if you choose an introduction agency, the carers are self-employed and once introduced they will need to be supervised, managed and paid by you. If they need a holiday or are unwell then you will need to either arrange cover, or care for your loved one yourself. This of, course can cause you much stress if you are left to find alternative care arrangements at the last minute. They are also not regulated and inspected by CQC so you cannot be assured that the service they provide is of the highest quality.
For families looking after elderly parents at home, many will seek recommendations from those they know as we do with other things we buy. There are also many rate and review sites, like Trustpilot and Homecare.co.uk who will have reviews for providers you may be considering. Alternatively, you could ask your local authority. They help families looking for elderly care support by providing a list they consider to be high-quality providers. Providers on their preferred suppliers list, will have been closely vetted by the authority so you can be reassured that that care offered is of a high standard. The UKHCA (United Kingdom Home Care Association) will also have a list of reputable providers for you to choose from.
Different types of care available
Here we explain the professional care for the elderly available to you and your family, and the benefits and limitations of each. The two most common ways to receive professional elderly care support are in a care home or to receive care at home.
Residential/nursing care homes
For many years, the default care option for a person requiring long term care has been to move into a residential or nursing home care setting. Typically, a move into a care home involves selling the much-loved family home to fund the care home fees. Unsurprisingly, 97% of people do not want to move into institutional care according to a survey conducted by the Live-In Care Hub. A care home is a building specifically designed to care for several residents, usually between 60-80 individuals who will be cared for on a designated unit according to their care needs. Personal care, specialist care, meal provision and activities will be provided by carers and nurses who are on a rota to provide care around the clock to residents.
Care at home
Home care, or domiciliary care as it is sometimes referred to can be anything from short visits for an hour or less at times during the day, for some support with cooking, dressing and domestic tasks, right through to full-time live-in care. This is where a carer lives with your loved one in their home providing 24-hour, one-to-one care, support, and companionship. It is likely that at some point your loved one has been receiving hourly or visiting care at home at this stage. However due to changing circumstances and needs, may now feel the need to consider a more long-term arrangement. Live in care is typically considered alongside the alternative of receiving care in a residential and/or nursing home setting at home.
Comparing elderly care support options
If you are considering care for the first time, it is prudent to research the options available, so you choose a solution that best meets your needs. Here we explain the benefits and limitations of the options available to you.
One-to-one care, tailored to you
Stay in the comfort and familiarity of your own home
Live life your way with choice and independence
Complex needs can be supported
Improved health outcomes - fewer falls, lower rates of infection and hospital admissions
Safest type of care during the Coronavirus pandemic
Peace of mind for you and your family
Comparable costs to care in a quality nursing home - very cost effective for couples
Estate remains with the family
Flexible number and frequency of visits
Cost effective where care needs are low
The ability to stay at home with support and not move into a care home
Familiar faces most of the time
A safe and secure environment
No home maintenance required
Meals are planned and cooked for you
Arranged activities and social events
Can still be part of local community if moving locally
Adjusting to a carer being in your home
A spare room is needed
Home modifications may be required
Home maintenance still required
Short visits do not always enable deep- rooted relationships
You will not be guaranteed the same carers
No care and support during the night
Visiting carers increase chances of Coronavirus transmission
Short visits do not allow for quality care of complex conditions
Stress and upheaval of leaving a much-loved home
Leaving a loved community
Loss of family pets
Moving all your possessions into one room
Family home sold to pay care home fees leaving nothing for the family
Care team ratios - one carer will be looking after 4/6 residents with different needs
Imposed routines - life is driven by fixed daily patterns (waking, eating, socialising)
Higher rates of hospital admissions and infections, including Coronavirus
Not getting on with other residents
“My father has dementia and was unhappy in a care home. I watched his decine with much sadness. The move back home with a live-in carer has been seamless. He is visibly happier and relaxed, which is so nice for the family to see.”
Mrs S Anderson
Staying at home with high-quality live-in care
The Good Care Group has been providing high quality live in care to clients across the country for over 10 years. Our care is focused on keeping people safely and happily in the comfort and familiarity of their own home, whilst improving their overall health and wellbeing. Care is provided on a one-to-one basis and is highly personalised reflecting not just an individual’s care needs, but their choices, wishes and social preferences so they are able to maintain as much independence as possible and live a healthy and happy life.
We are the only live-in care provider to have been rated ‘Outstanding’ by CQC in all five key measures - safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led. In Scotland our service has been inspected by the Care Inspectorate (CI), receiving the highest rating of a 6 (Excellent) for Quality of Care and Support and 5 (Very Good) for Staffing and Management and Leadership. We know this provides families with peace of mind that their loved one is receiving the best possible care.
Our nurse-led care for those living with complex medical conditions is lead and supported by a dedicated Specialist Consultant Nurse, who works closely with our care teams to ensure we are consistently improving our client’s health outcomes.
How to choose the right care
Choosing long-term care for a loved one is one of the most important journeys you will embark on and choosing the right provider is critical. Whilst there is lots of care available for the elderly, you will need to discuss what is right for your loved one, whilst considering what will work best for you as the family carer.
Many people will seek advice from their GP or other healthcare professional, and many will discuss with friends and family who may have gone through the same experience to really help decide.
How much time you have available to support the care arrangement is a key consideration as this will determine whether you have the time available to manage an agency carer or whether you can benefit from the peace of mind offered by a fully managed service provider. When considering looking after elderly parents the cost of care. Is a significant factor to consider. The care of available for an elderly couple in their own home is very cost-effective when compared to a care home, where two packages of care and accommodation will be charged.
We are experts in providing high-quality live in care rated ‘Outstanding’ by CQC. Call our friendly and approachable team today. We are here to help you explore your options for looking after an elderly loved one.