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What are your options when it comes to finding the right care for elderly parents?

Posted on 18/11/2013

When your parents start to get older, you might have to begin thinking about their care needs and how best to go about meeting them. Often, people think that they either have to look after their parents themselves, and when/if that’s not possible, then a care home is the only option.  

This is not the case, and there are plenty of other options that you can consider, which are there to help your parents stay independent, remain in their own home and make more financial sense.

The first thing that you need to do, however, is assess the needs of your parents. You can do this yourself using our online Care Needs Checker, which just helps you to think about what areas your parents could do with a little extra help in. This gives you your priorities when looking at care options.

You will also want to look at whether or not they might be entitled to some funding from your Local Authority. You can use our Postcode Checker to see which Local Authority you need to approach. The Local Authority will do their own assessment of your parents’ needs from which they can determine if they are entitled to any funding to purchase care or support.  It is increasingly more likely that they will be awarded funds as a Personal Budget, which is a payment that can be used to find and buy your own care services. If you are not entitled to any financial help, then you will need to have a look at your parents’ finances to figure out how much money there is available to pay for care and support.

Once you have your priorities in place and a financial budget, you can start to look into the care and support services that you need.

Adapting the home

It might be the case that your parents just need a few changes around the home to help them with day-to-day living. There are lots of tools and technology that can be a huge benefit and a one-off cost can save money on care in the long term. For example, telecare and telehealth services can be used to alert you or medical services if something happens to one of your parents. Stair lifts can help if their home is on more than one floor. Even simple solutions that don’t cost anything can help, such as rearranging kitchen cupboards so that everything is at the right height to prevent bending or stretching. Speak to your Local Authority, whether you get funding or not, about community projects that can help with things like home improvements and gardening, as you might find something local to you.

Community services

Research what is available in the local community, as you might be surprised as to just how much is out there. Some communities will have transport available to help your parents get around if they can no longer drive and would struggle with public transport. These could help them to do the shopping for example, with assistants to help them on and off the bus. Some shopping centres also have mobility aids available to hire. Other community services include things like gardeners, volunteers who can give company or help with certain tasks, and much more.

If you think that you parents need a little support with certain day-to-day tasks, then you can look for cleaners or meal-delivery services that are local to you. These won’t be free, unless the Local Authority deems them necessary to your parents’ welfare and offers funding, but they are cheaper than residential care and they do help your parents to remain more independent.

Paid carers

If your parents need more help at home, in particular with moving around, getting in or out of bed, personal care and so on, then you may want to consider hiring a paid carer. You can do this in a number of ways: hiring through an agency, employing them directly or finding a self-employed paid carer. Paid carers can help with any tasks that your parents require support with, and you can get them to come in for the hours that they are needed and for the tasks that are required. This is a really flexible solution and the benefit is that your parents will remain at home, yet still receive the care that they need. The paid carer will either be paid through any Local Authority funding that has been granted, or you and your parents will need to pay for them yourselves.

Residential care

There may come a time when it is no longer possible for your parents to remain in their own home, and you have to start thinking about residential care. This still doesn’t have to mean a full-time care home in every case. For example, a retirement home or sheltered housing might actually be more suitable, where your parents still own or rent their own flat or house, but with more of a community and a warden on duty. There are other forms of assisted living too, which help your parents with their additional daily needs while keeping their independence as much as possible. If your parents do require 24-hour care, then this is where a care home can become the best option, as this is a live-in solution with round-the-clock support. This is when it will start to cost a lot more and it pays to take financial advice from a later-life specialist to maximise funds. The Local Authority may contribute towards costs, but your parents’ assets will be assessed and there may be payment owning from their estate when the time comes.

Family care

Having your parents live with you, or you going around to their house to help them out, is a common solution. This gives your parents security, as they are comfortable around you and it is a low-cost solution. You will need to think about how this will impact on your own life as well as your parents’, especially if you have children of your own to consider, as well a job. Make sure that you give yourself enough time outside of your caring responsibilities to connect with other people and have time to yourself. It can be a great solution in many cases, but it pays to go into it with your eyes wide open and know how it can affect you. Consider looking at a mixed package of care if you can, with you taking on responsibility for some aspects of it and, if it is possible, having other people help out with other areas. For example, you might help your parents in the morning, but then arrange for a local volunteer to spend time with them for an hour or so during the day, or use a local shopping service, so that they have company and time away from home.

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