Community  •   Published 25/05/2016  •  Updated 23/03/2023  •  By Dr Hilary Jones

Dr Hilary Jones Discusses Caring for Your Elderly Parents

Caring for Elderly parents

Our elderly population is on the rise, with an estimated 16 million people due to be over 65 by 2030 in the UK alone. It is great news that we are living longer due to medical advancements. The rise will impact us all as we struggle to balance the needs of our elderly parents while dealing with the demands of modern life. This article discusses some practical steps to ensure we are able to support our elderly parents so they can receive the correct care in their later years.

1. Plan Ahead

The worst decisions are the ones made in haste. When under pressure, we can make a decision that we may later regret and are unable to undo. This is why planning ahead for the care of our elderly parents can make uncomfortable decisions easier.

Just because your parents seem fine now, you could well be faced with a sudden change in circumstances whereby critical choices have to be made. Making some practical decisions in advance ensures that adjustments are less upsetting and have a lessened impact on everyone in the family.

2. Have a Conversation

conversation with elderly parent
Starting a conversation with your elderly parents about their future care needs may be daunting. It may be best to think about that in advance and choose a time and location when everyone is relaxed and not distracted. It’s important not to put elderly relatives under pressure and to emphasise that their wishes are of the utmost importance. This helps encourage an open, and honest discussion. Try not to cover everything in one conversation.

It may take some time for the idea of the need for help to sink in and be accepted, so having regular little chats might be easier for them to receive. This is especially the case if they are reasonably independent at present. Having regular conversations with your elderly parents will help them not feel overwhelmed with too much information or too many decisions at once.

3. Independence at Home

For most of us, the changing needs of our elderly parents are gradual. Ideally, it’s best to find ways for them to remain independent for as long as possible in their own home. For example, they may be able to cook, clean, take any medication, and be relatively active. There are a host of companies that offer products and services to help elderly people stay in their own homes. Here are a few:

  • A stair lift enables them to stay at home and use the upstairs without the stress of having to move.
  • A personal alarm will enable help to arrive quickly when assistance is needed.
  • A Rise and recline chair will enable your parents to get in and out of a chair easily.
  • A bath lift can make it much easier to take a shower.
  • Products that provide additional help for pensioners that wish to remain independent while feeling secure in their own home.

4. Support and Guidance

Over a period of time, your elderly relatives may become less mobile, have difficulty shopping, or show signs of mild dementia. It’s at this point where you may have to take the initiative. If it is possible to discuss these things openly with your parents beforehand, your job is somewhat easier.

There is a lot of help out there if you know where to find it. Local authorities offer a broad range of services for the elderly, so contacting their GP or their local adult social services department may be a good place to start. There are many charities that have local volunteers that provide social events during the week. This is a great way for your elderly parents to stay socially active and feel more purposeful.

One such charity whose aim is to tackle loneliness specifically is Re-engage. They organise monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of elderly people over the age of 75 in your local area. It gives thousands of people something to look forward to each month.

5. Share the Load

Caring for elderly parents can be tiring, especially if you have no siblings living close by. The feeling of being the only one available can be a heavy burden. If you do have other family members, then you can encourage them to stay in contact with their relatives, either by phone, letter, email, or even Skype. This provides your parents with the reassurance that they are loved, cherished, and in their loved ones’ thoughts.

Perhaps you can make the suggestion that other family members use holiday time to visit or as an opportunity to give you a break if you are the main carer. Steady communication between all parties can help prevent resentment and ensure the load is spread as evenly as possible.

6. Choices in Care

Sometimes the specific medical needs of our elderly parents or our own circumstances make it not possible for them to remain in their own home or move into a family member’s home. It’s at this point that family members have to make the decision to relocate the elderly person into a care home. This can be distressing for all parties concerned, but it’s important not to rush the decision.

Can you consider these points: What are the needs of your parents? What would be a good location to enable family members to visit? Make a shortlist and visit each one. Check the quality standards of each home you shortlist. Counting the cost of caring for elderly parents can be tremendously rewarding.

As one daughter said, “They did so much for us, I’m grateful to be able to care for them now.” By combining advance planning, open conversation, and the willingness to use local resources, caring for our elderly parents need not be a burden but can be used as a time to strengthen family bonds.

Thank you for reading. For more information like this, please check out our blog.

About The Author

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Dr Hilary Jones

Dr Hilary Jones MBE is an English GP with over 40 years of experience practicing as a medical doctor in England. Having featured on early morning television programming since May 1989, Jones currently... Read More

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