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When elderly parents need more help at home

Posted on 04/01/2015

Over the Easter break, we often spend more time with our family than we might do throughout the rest of the year. In between family dinners and too much chocolate, you might come to the sad realisation that your elderly parents or relatives are coping less well than they had been.

When you only see them every few days, weeks or even months, it is harder to spot little day-to-day tasks that might be troubling them. However, the festive break can bring an extended period of time together and these things become more obvious.

Along with this discovery probably comes a sense of guilt that you hadn’t noticed it before and also concern on how you can help going forward.

The first thing to do is to have a conversation with your parent or relative, and ask them how they are. It is not an easy conversation to have, especially if that person is in denial or reluctant to accept help. We have some advice on the kinds of things that you might want to discuss here, which includes thinking about the help that they need right now, as well as what help they may need in the future.

Remember that you need to respect their wishes; if they are determined to stay independent and in their own home for as long as possible, then your role is to support them in that and find the right solutions to meet those needs.

To start off with, it might be enough to ask a friend, family member or neighbour, or even go yourself, to pop in on a regular basis and help with anything that they need doing. If you don’t live locally then you will get reassurance knowing that someone is watching out for them.

However, if they need more help, with anything from the weekly shop to getting up in the mornings, then it can be worth getting someone in to help. Hiring a paid carer or support worker means that you know that the needs your parent or relative has are being met by someone experienced. It can be a bit daunting at first, as you will become an employer (unless you chose to work with someone self-employed, who will have other clients too) and that comes with certain responsibilities. If you have concerns, then check out our frequently asked questions on this topic.

Contact your Local Authority, as they may be able to help you with funding care services. Even if you are not eligible for funding, they should do an assessment, determine your parent’s care needs and help you locate suitable services. If your parent is offered funding, then this is usually awarded in the form of a personal budget. This amount can be paid directly to a service provider (though this will usually have to be Local Authority approved) or as a Direct Payment into a bank account in your parent’s name  (in some circumstances, you may be able to have it paid directly to you). This latter option lets you pick and choose the services that you want to use, as long as they are agreed in your care plan with the Local Authority, and you pay for it directly.

Other options include becoming a family carer or researching residential care. Whatever you choose, it should be right for your parent, for you and for your family. 

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