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Dr Hilary Jones Discusses Caring for Your Elderly Parents

Our elderly population is on the increase, with an estimated 16 million people due to be over 65 by 2030 in UK alone. Whilst it’s great news that we are all living longer due to medical advancement, this rise will impact on all of us as we struggle to balance the needs of our elderly parents 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 older years.

Plan Ahead

The worst decisions are often those made in haste. When under pressure we can make a decision that we may later regret but are unable to undo. That’s why planning ahead for the care of our elderly parents can make this uncomfortable road that much smoother. 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. So, by making some advance practical decisions now means that adjustments are less traumatic and eases the impact on all family members.

Have a Conversation

Starting a conversation with your elderly parents about their future care needs may well be daunting. So 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 really important not to put elderly relatives under pressure and emphasise that their wishes are of the utmost importance. This helps encourage an open yet at times frank discussion. Try not to cover everything in one conversation. It may take some time for the idea for the need for help to sink in and be accepted, so it might be an idea to have regular little chats. This is especially the case if they are reasonably independent at this time. Having regular conversations with your elderly parents will help them not to feel over whelmed with too much information or too many decisions to make at once.

Independence at Home

For most of us the changing needs of our elderly parents is gradual. Ideally it’s best to try and find ways for them to be able to stay independent for as long as possible in their own home. For example, they presently 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 support elderly people stay in their own home. Here’s a few ideas:
  • A stair lift could enable them to stay in their home and use the upstairs without the stress of having to move.
  • A careline alarm will enable help to arrive quickly if they do need assistance.
  • 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 have a shower.

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. But if you have been able to discuss these things openly with your parents beforehand, your job is made 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 also many charities such as AgeUK who have local volunteers that provide social events during the week. This is a great way for your elderly parents to stay socially active and can do much to make them feel more purposeful. One such charity whose aim is to tackle loneliness specifically is Contact the Elderly. They organise monthly Sunday Afternoon tea parties for small groups of elderly people over the age of 75 in your local area. It’s a brilliant idea and helps thousands of people each month have something to look forward to. 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 to carry. If you do have other family members then it’s a good idea to 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 above all are in peoples thoughts. Perhaps you can make the suggestion of other family members using holiday time to visit or as an opportunity to give you a break if you are the main carer. Good communication between all parties can help prevent resentment and ensure the load is spread as evenly as possible.

Choices in Care

Sometimes the specific medical needs of our elderly parents or our own circumstances means it’s just not possible for them to remain in their own home or even move into a family member’s home. It’s at this point family members have to make the decision to move them into a care home. This can be distressing for all concerned, but its important not to rush the decision. 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 Calculate the cost of care Caring for elderly parents can tremendously rewarding. As one daughter said, “They did so much for us, I’m grateful to be able to care for them now.” By advance planning, open conversation and the willingness to use local resources, caring for our elderly parents need not be a burden but a time where family bonds can be strengthened.

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