Care and Housing Options

handle with care pair (72)

The care and housing decisions for our elderly parents are some of the hardest and most emotionally stressful decisions we make. They have an enormous impact on everyone’s lives.

Sadly, because needing care is not a subject we or our relatives want to think about, these decisions are often not faced until they are forced upon us in a crisis, – for example, after our loved ones have been admitted to hospital or had a fall. In these stressful circumstances, solutions have to be found rapidly.

The best decisions are those made by a family that has prepared for them, so do start conversations considering all the options as early as possible.

The accepted facts are:

  1. Most people want to stay independent in their own homes until they die.
  2. Social services and doctors are keen to help the elderly stay in their own homes because they believe they’ll be happier, healthier and more active both mentally and physically, the more control they maintain over their lives.
  3. The extent to which this is achieved is dependent upon the help they receive.

The implication is that we, their caregivers, have the defining role in helping our parents live independently longer. If we look at the 5 stages of caring, the aim is to help them stay in the earlier stages of 1 to 3 as long as possible, thus minimising their time in stage 4, when they need full time care.

A quick list of the main housing options are:-

  1. Staying in their own home
  2. Downsizing
  3. Living with you
  4. Retirement Housing
  5. Care homes
  6. Respite Care

When considering the options, think first about your parent’s wishes, especially in terms of familiarity, privacy, security and safety. Your relatives’ finances will have a key bearing on what options are open to them. The question of funding needs to be sorted. With more older people owning their own homes and having greater wealth than previous generations, more will not qualify for state funding. (See Finance and Legals…)

Once your parents are in need of assistance, often the best place to start is to get in touch with the local social services department and ask for an assessment of your relative’s needs. (NHS Choices has details about the assessment of care) If it is agreed that care services are needed, then they can arrange for these to be provided (there may be charges). They are also very good at pointing you in the right direction for what else is available locally.

The funding of care differs depending on whether it’s medical or social. Medical care is covered under the NHS but social care isn’t. (The article Social Care provides more information). There can be help with social care funding, depending on your relative’s means. See Financing Care

With my mother’s Parkinson’s disabling her, my parents decided they would downsize and, although they did not yet need it, decided to move into a warden assisted flat, planning it to be their last move. They had 3 happy years there but my mother, being a doctor, knew she would need full time care and initiated talks about a care home. As she deteriorated, I began the search to find one. It took me sometime but eventually I found a lovely one, which, unsurprisingly, had a 3 month waiting list. Our final 3 weeks were a struggle but it was worth it. My father, who visited my mother daily, was also very happy to go there after his emergency operation. They ended up happily together again.

What was right for my family is not necessarily right for yours. Your circumstances are unique to you and as long as the best decision is made for all parties, then that is the right decision for your family. If circumstances change, decisions can always be re-looked at.