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Make tough decisions about a parent’s care

Posted on 15/01/2016

It can be hard to accept, but there will usually come a time when you will have to make hard decisions about your parents needing more help to continue with their daily activities or personal care requirements.

 It can often be an event that triggers the need to have ‘the talk’ with them, for example, if one parent dies and the other is left alone, or there is a health complication, such as a sudden fall. Sometimes, however, it might be a slow decline in abilities that you don’t even realise is happening.

 Spending time with them over the holidays can make this decline more apparent, which is why the new year is often a time when many of us have to consider our parents’ care needs and think about what the right decisions are going forward.

 Here are some tips and things to think about:

 Make a joint plan

 It is important to sit down with your parents and talk to them about the future. It is best, where possible, to do this before they have any serious care needs, so you can work with them to decide what their wishes are in various situations. Ask them whether they would prefer to stay at home as long as possible; what activities are important to them and that they wish to continue with; at what point would they consider residential care, if at all; whether they plan to stay in their current home or whether they would consider downsizing to a more manageable home. This are all just examples of things to consider, but the more you can talk about in advance, the easier it will be to make decisions later on knowing that you are taking what they want into consideration.

 Discuss a care plan

 When it gets to the point where your parents do need some help, then it is worth creating a care plan. This could be something that you do yourself, but usually it is done in conjunction with the local authority liaison who is responsible for their care, a care worker or their GP. A care plan outlines the areas in which a person needs additional help, things that they can no longer manage by themselves. It then looks at the best solutions to help with those problems. A good care plan will also look at things that are important to a person – for example, they may wish to attend a local social club to keep up with friends and a care plan would look at any obstructions to this and how to overcome them. You can use our Care Needs Helper to help prepare a care plan, as it goes through the sorts of questions that you need to ask.

 Review your care options

 There are a lot of options these days for choosing the right care for your parents. It is not just a case of looking for a care home. In fact, most older people would prefer to stay at home where it is possible and maintain their independence. Your choices include: using a family member to provide care; hiring a paid carer to come into their home, either through an agency, contracting with a self-employed carer or employing one yourself; using community-based services to help with certain tasks, such as a food delivery service or a gardener; or employing a combination of different services for a personalised care setup. Don’t feel pressured by anyone into choosing one particular service – even if you are receiving funding from the local authority, you have a choice.

 Think about your involvement

 It’s only natural to want to do as much as possible yourself for your parents, but this isn’t always possible. For a start, many of us are separated by distance, which can make it hard to be there for all the appointments you want to be. If this is the case, then make sure that you have contact details of all care providers and healthcare professionals, so that you can phone them for information and updates. If there are family members more local, or you know your parents’ neighbours well, then ask them to check in from time to time. If you are local to your parents, then you might want to take on some care responsibilities yourself. You need to weigh up their needs against your own, however. If you need to work and/or have a family of your own, then you will likely still need some outside help – take a look at our article on ‘The impact of being a family carer’. Another option is moving your parents in with you – there are advantages and disadvantages to this kind of intergenerational living, but it works very well in some circumstances.

 Be flexible

 Things change. And they can change quite rapidly. Your parents might go from needing very little help, to suddenly needing a lot more. You need to be willing to change their care plan and adapt to new situations, without adding any stress or pressure into their situation. Having an idea of what you would do in certain scenarios makes it easier to think on your feet. If their care needs do become more serious, then make sure that you talk to your local authority. They can do a reassessment and you may find that you are eligible for funding if you weren’t before, or additional help.

 For more information on your care options, finances and choices you might have to make, visit our dedicated Service Users section on the website. 

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