As adults, we have a huge amount of freedom in life, many opportunities coming our way, and many positive experiences waiting for us, but the one single thought we never want to have to consider in much detail is the idea of our parents growing old.
Of course, ageing is a fact of being human, it comes to us all, and unfortunately, for some, it can be a difficult process to view. When it is your mother or father, the situation becomes all the more heartbreaking, as you think back to the times you remember in your childhood, your parents young, full of energy, and bounding around at the same speed as you. Ageing takes that speed away from us, and it can also rob us of our independence, if we let it.
Whilst that might paint a rather depressing picture of having elderly parents, the reality doesn’t have to be that way, provided you can put into place a really positive and suitable long-term care plan. With the help and support of other family members, you can navigate this difficult decision with a lot more ease than you might think, and there are many options and ideas to consider.
We should certainly mention at this point that any decisions you make for ageing parents should always be discussed with them first, and their permission obtained, if that is possible. Many older people are extremely independent, and can be quite stubborn! Despite the fact that there is a clear case for support in the home, or even thinking about a care home or residential care, an elderly person may feel they can cope just fine.
You cannot force your parent to do anything they don’t want to do, whether you feel it is in their best interests or not. If your parent is unable to make decisions for themselves, e.g. if they are suffering from a degenerative mental condition, such as Alzheimers or dementia, then there are routes you can go down, pertaining to the Care Act, which will give you extra help and support in this regard.
For now however, let’s simply look at the options and give an overview of different routes to take, and things to think about.
ADLs – Activities of Daily Living
The first care and support route is often linked to something called ADLs, or Activities of Daily Living. These are the things you do every single day without even thinking about it, such as having a wash, going to the toilet, taking a bath or shower, getting out of bed with ease, getting dressed, feeding yourself, etc. These are extremely personal duties which many elderly parents will not want to discuss at first, and that is totally understandable. If your ageing parent requires help with ADLs then it is vital to consider their dignity and wellbeing when trying to come to a suitable compromise.
There are many care for elderly options here, such as a live in carer, or a home care visitor, to help your parent with the daily tasks which they are starting to struggle with, whilst allowing them to maintain the independence of remaining in their own home and surroundings.
Various Living Arrangements
The other key point to think about as adult children caring for elderly parents is looking at the possible living arrangements for your parent(s). If it becomes impossible for your parent to live alone without support then there is the option of having a live in carer, as we mentioned above. This is someone who will live in with your parent(s), and will be discreet enough to allow them independence in their own home, but be around for the tasks which they need help with, and also to offer a sense of confidence and reassurance.
It’s possible that you may want your parent to move in with you, but in many cases a parent will be opposed to this as they don’t want to feel like a ‘burden’. This is a false idea of course, but if it makes them uncomfortable, you have to respect their wishes in this regard.
Staying within their own home and having several changes made to the building, e.g. stair lift, handles, etc, is probably the number one choice of most elderly people, and this is referred to as ‘independent living’. Having a carer is an addition to this, but another option is something called an Independent Living Community.
This is a great choice for elderly people who are quite sprightly, independent, and sociable. This means that your parent(s) will rent a home within a community housing other elderly people. There will be support on site, although not medical support, as well as other facilities, such as laundry, group meals, security, and housekeeping. This is also a very sociable experience, and the choice of many elderly people; some even refer to it as almost like a holiday camp!
If your parent needs a little more support than what they would find in a community as we have just described then assisted living communities are a step up from that. They are very similar to what we have just described, but there is more support on site, including caregivers who can help with daily tasks, such as eating, dressing, bathing etc.
Of course, the most common living arrangement that most people think of when it comes to care for elderly parents is the nursing home, or residential home. Many elderly people have a lot of resistance to this idea, but many also like the idea and feel safer with this choice. It’s a personal decision to make, and totally dependent upon the needs of your parent.
A nursing home is ideal for elderly people who don’t necessarily need to be in hospital for their medical conditions, but do need to have a certain amount of surveillance very close to hand. There is a sociable aspect to a nursing home, as well as reassurance for family members that their parents are looked after around the clock.
There are a number of options available when it comes to thinking about caring for your elderly parent, and whilst they are all difficult decisions to make, finding the perfect blend for your parent and yourself will ensure you can continue to enjoy your time together, without difficulties standing in the way.