Supporting our parents and other older relatives as they grow old can be a challenging experience. It’s something we want to get right. In doing so, you will have a number of considerations, such as making sure your relative receives adequate functional and emotional support where they retain their independence, and that the care is affordable. Given these considerations, and the number of care options available, choosing the right one for your family can be daunting.
These care options can be categorised into home care and residential care. This article provides a brief guide into the options available for both routes, and the merits and drawbacks of each.
Home care, also known as ‘domiciliary care’ comes in many forms. An older adult is able to stay in their own home, and receive support from one or more of the following helpers:
- ‘Family carers’ are relatives or friends who provide support to the relative.
- ‘Professional carers’, also known as ‘Care workers’ are trained carers, employed by an agency, charity or the council who provide home care. They may also be directly employed by the family.
This form of care is individually tailored to your relative. You will therefore need to consider both the level of support, and the frequency of care required. Many home care agencies will sit down with you and your relative to come up with a care plan that is most suitable. Additionally, you will need to decide whether to privately employ a professional carer, or hire them from an organisation. This will be discussed in a later article on how to decide on the right home care for you.
Care services can help to support daily activities including:
- Personal care, which includes washing, dressing and going to the toilet
- Daily household activities such as cleaning, laundry and shopping
- Mobility, by helping your relative to get out of bed, move around the home, and travel around the community
- Eating, drinking and taking medication
- Providing companionship
- Health related tasks, requiring medical attention, including checking vitals and assisting with medical equipment such as ventilators
Health related tasks would require a specialised nurse, but supporting the other activities does not require specialised services. Therefore, occasional visits by a nurse when medical attention is required can complement more frequent care by others.
The frequency of care can vary:
- Daytime visits will involve the professional carer visiting your relative as often as required. These visits also vary in length, depending on the needs of your relative. Nevertheless, a minimum duration of 60 minutes for care is recommended to ensure tasks are completed thoroughly.
- Overnight care involves a professional carer providing full time care during the night, allowing the family and friends a break from looking after their relative. Overnight carers can be on-call and alert when needed or awake throughout the night.
- Live-in care involves the professional carer living in your relative’s home to provide full time care.
Residential care comes in the following forms, which provide progressively higher levels of supervision.
- Retirement homes or assisted living facilities, often found within ‘retirement villages’ are a form of independent living facility. These allow sufficiently independent older adults a secure environment to live in, with communal amenities and activities. They can also provide 24-hour on-site support for personal care, though staff are not trained to carry out health-related tasks.
- Care homes provide 24-hour assistance for basic personal needs. Some care homes, also referred to as nursing homes, employ nurses and therapists to provide support for health-related tasks.
If you’re deciding what form of residential care is best for your family, your relative’s health is a key factor. For relatives of sound body and mind, retirement homes and assisting living facilities will allow them to live an independent life, and can be complemented by visits from a professional carer. However, in the event their health deteriorates, your relative may no longer be able to live independently. Your family will then need to decide whether they will have to move to a care home, or receive care at home through a combination of professional and family support.
Should you opt for a care home or a professional carer?
Benefits of home care:
- Flexibility – as the care is individually tailored to your relative, they can have as much, or as little help as needed. This flexibility allows home care to complement independent residential living options, such as retirement home or assisted living facility.
- Maintaining independence – your relative can work with their carer to maintain their lifestyle and daily routine.
- Stability – your relative can stay within their local community, keeping contact with friends and family, and feel at home.
- Peace of mind – your relative will be looked after by a trained professional. When using an agency, they will have vetted their staff thoroughly, and will also cover absences when staff go on leave.
- You can offset costs of residence at a care home since your relative stays at home.
- Unless carers are live-in, you may not have 24-hour support for relatives living independently. An alarm system may help to alert nearby friends and relatives in case of difficulty.
- When using an agency, staff may have to be rotated if they are on holiday or leaving the job. This change of staff may be jarring for your relative. Some home care agencies, such as Cera ensures that your relative receives consistent carers, providing a stable, familiar care environment.
- Your relative’s home should be adapted to prevent injuries and meet their needs.
- Full time dedicated care will be costly. How to pay for home care will be discussed in a later article.
- If you choose to employ a personal assistant, you will have employer responsibilities. You will have to manage pay, insurance, training, and vetting. You will also need to arrange a replacement when your assistant goes on holiday, though government respite care may help with this.
Benefits of care homes:
- Companionship – your relative may enjoy being part of the elderly community in residential care.
- Peace of mind – your relative will be taken care of in a safe environment, with support immediately available if needed.
- Fit-for-purpose – the facilities in all forms of residential care are purpose built for older adults. Moreover, staff will be trained to respond to appropriate daily needs.
- Relocating and losing contact with old neighbours, friends and relatives may lead your relative to become lonely.
- There is likely to be a lack of privacy in care homes.
- Staff in care homes will care for multiple residents, meaning your relative will not receive individual attention and care.
- Care homes often need to implement a routine to manage care for multiple residents. This may clash with your relative’s usual daily routine, leading to a loss in independence.
- Residential living of all forms can be costly due to the accommodation costs, which may offset lower carer costs.
Both care homes and professional carers have their merits and issues to consider. What the best option is for your family will therefore depend on the needs of you and your relative.
This article provides a brief summary of the available options. If you would to find out more, here are some of the excellent resources you can find online: