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Look after your parents in old age

Posted on 31/01/2017

Watching your parents grow older can be difficult, especially if they start to find daily tasks more demanding, and need care and support to continue to live independently. It can be hard to watch and it’s easy to feel helpless, but there are ways that you can help your parents.

And that’s a sentiment that is going to be ever more important in the coming years as the social care crisis continues to deepen. With councils struggling to deliver social care needs without adequate funding, there is likely to be less state help available for older people. The Local Government Association has reported that authorities are finding it hard to provide the right level of support, and that there could be a £2.6 billion gap by 2020 between the money needed for social care services and actual budgets. This could lead to reduced care visits and increase the time it takes to get an older person home from hospital if an appropriate care package isn’t available.

Social care minister David Mowat recently warned that things are not going to be getting better, and that families wouldn’t be able to rely on the state to ensure that the needs of elderly parents are met. In fact, he says that it’s our responsibility to support elderly parents as much as we do children: “Nobody ever questions that we look after our children. That’s just obvious. Nobody ever says that’s a carer’s responsibility, it’s just what you do. I think some of that logic and the way that we think about that, in terms of volume of numbers that we are seeing coming down the track, will have to impinge on how we look after our parents.”

With demand for social care increasing and councils at real risk of breaching the Care Act, due to being unable to meet needs, it does seem that more help will have to come from within families. But what can you do to support your parents?

It may be that you can help with their care and support needs in the first instance, when their needs are slight. It could be that they just need company a couple of times a week, or help going out for shopping. These are good opportunities to spend time together and aid with a task, without the older person feeling like they are losing their independence. 

However, if their needs are greater, the strain of being a family carer can also increase, depending on the level of need. It is important to consider children, work and yourself, as well as your elderly parent. We have some more information on being a Family Carer on the website.

Helping an elderly parent doesn’t have to mean doing it all yourself though. You could help them by engaging the services of a paid carer, for example. You could contract with a self-employed paid carer or look at employing one yourself, depending on what suits your needs best. This is a good way of ensuring that your elderly parents are getting the right home care, and you can control the amount of time that the carer spends with your parent. You can also only hire a paid carer for what you can afford, so even a few hours a week to give you a break or cover you while you are at work, for example, can make a huge difference.

However you decide to approach the situation, it’s important to sit down and talk to your parents early on and see what kind of care and support they would like, what financial assets or provisions there are, if relevant, to help pay for any outside help, and how much they want you to be involved in their care. An honest and frank conversation early on saves a lot of difficult decisions in later years.

See the Service Users section to find out more about care and support choices. 

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