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Caring for elderly parents

Posted on 23/09/2013

We rely on our parents to look after us as we are growing up and beyond, but sadly there comes a time when they start to need our help more then we need theirs. Here we take a look at some of the options that you can consider when the time comes and the sorts of things that you need to think about.


Helping parents stay independent

As your parent starts to get older, one of the first things that you can do for them is to encourage them to stay fit and healthy so that they can remain independent for longer. Even before they need any extra care and support, things like eating right, taking regular exercise and keeping up with hobbies can help to maintain the mind and body. Once they have additional needs, then there are plenty of products, services and community projects that can continue to help them to live as independently as possible. 


Care plan

If you think that your parent could do with a little extra help, a good place to start is to analyse their actual care needs. For example, maybe they just need a little help preparing food, getting in and out of bed, or doing the shopping. By isolating just the areas that they require assistance with in their lives, you can tailor the support that they receive and this will enable them to stay in their own home for as long as possible. As a first step, work your way through the Care Needs Helper, which will generate a report based on your answers and form the basis of a care plan.


Care and support options

When you know which areas your parent needs help in, you can then start to look at all of the care and support options that are available to you. There are three main options that you will across: using a paid carer, becoming a family carer or residential care. We'll take a look at these three options in more detail further down.


Working with your local authority

A good place to start, regardless of the care and support option that you want to pursue, is to get in touch with your local authority (find out which LA you fall under with this Postcode Checker). You can ask them to perform a Care Assessment on your parent, which will determine what needs the LA authority believes them to have and whether there is any funding available to help them pay for the support they need. If your parent is eligible for council support, then they might be given a personal budget, which is an allocation of money to pay for the services that they want to use. You can get an idea of whether your parent is likely to receive any financial aid with this Funding Checker.


Thinking about finances

If you can't get any help from your local authority, then you need to start thinking about how your parent is going to pay for their care needs. It pays to look around your local area and see if there are any services designed to help elderly people in the community as this can often be more cost-effective. You might also be able to use family members to cover some of the needs, while hiring professional help for others to help balance the cost. Take a look at this article for more ideas: How else can I get my care funded?


Hiring a paid carer

One option that you can look into when it comes to care and support options is to hire a paid carer. A paid carer comes to your parent's home and helps them with whatever they need. If you hire a paid carer, you become their employer, so you can determine exactly what hours they are needed and what tasks they need to perform. It can be daunting to be an employer, but by following some simple steps, it really is quite straightforward.


Looking for a care home

You may decide that your parent's needs are sufficient that they are unable to stay in their own home . This is when you should start to consider residential care options, though there are many different levels that you can look at. Retirement homes are private residences that are designed to make life easier for elderly inhabitants, and often there is a warden on duty to assist with any problems. Sheltered housing is similar, except that the homes are rented properties provided by the local authority or housing association. These options help your parents to stay independent, but with help on hand if and when it is needed. Of course, if your parent requires 24-hour care, then a nursing home is more appropriate. There have been plenty of horror stories in the news recently about care homes, but it is worth bearing in mind that these are the exceptions rather than the rules. Most care homes meet the high standards required of them, offer all manner of activities and entertainment, and provide good quality care.


Becoming a family carer

You may decide that the best option is to look after your parent yourself. This can mean either going to their home every day and helping them with their needs, or moving them in with you so that you can keep an eye on them. Becoming a family carer is a difficult task, as it adds extra work to your day for no extra money. Luckily, there is plenty of support out there for unpaid carers, which you should take advantage of to ensure that you cope with the additional workload. It can be particularly hard if you have your own children to look after as well, though they can benefit from having a grandparent so involved in their lives. 

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