The population of the UK is aging. The stats are there in black and white. For example, a new study from a team of academics at Newcastle University has suggested by 2025 there will be an extra 335,000 people with complex care needs, with the number of people needing round-the-clock care set to rise by 163,000.
The stats are big, but for many of us they feel like simply numbers and not something that will affect us.
But things can start to become all too real when your parents begin to show the signs of requiring care. That’s when the stats really hit home.
When you start to spot the signs and feel like you may need to broach the subject with one or both parents, there are a number of things you should do and consider. Here we’ll guide you through everything you need to know.
Learn how to spot the signs
It’s so important to know what you’re looking for.
When it comes to the mental health of your parents there are a few signs you should look out for. These include:
- If a usually tidy house is a bit run down and day to day jobs haven’t been taken care of or are starting to slip a little.
- If they begin to display unusual behaviour, including:
- Long periods of feeling low or down
- Becoming angry or irate over trivial and small things
- If their often sharp memory begins to struggle and they start to forget day to day things.
- If they start to have problems with communication and language.
- If their visual perception is affected.
There can be many reasons for this, one of the most frequent conditions amongst older adults is Dementia. If you are concerned that it could be Dementia, you can learn more about how to spot the signs through The Alzheimer’s Association.
Care isn’t simply about their mental health, however. If their physical health has begun to diminish this could also necessitate care.
Ask yourself some fundamental questions
It’s so important you get a number of things straight in your own head before speaking to your parents.
Begin by asking yourself some key questions, including:
- Are my parents safe in their home?
- Are their needs and requirements becoming more than I can manage?
- What is the best way to make sure the needs of both my parents are being met?
- What resources are out there that could benefit my parents?
- What kind of assistance can we afford?
- What is the best kind of help that would increase the safety of my parents while also ensuring they can retain as much of their independence as possible?
Try and answer these yourself and between your siblings as this will help gauge the level of care that may be required for your parents.
It will also help you when you first have the conversation as it may dictate that a layer of home care or simple home help could be the best option – this will ensure you can quickly allay any fears of moving to a care home.
Consider your parents’ emotional state of mind
This could be a big change for their lives, emotions could well be running high.
A key step is to consider how your parent or parents may be feeling. Talking about care can be very difficult, especially if they are very independent. It can be hard for them to come to terms with aging.
They may also find the whole subject distressing if they are not fully aware of all the potential options for care. It’s very easy to simply assume the only option would be moving to a residential care home. Age UK has a useful FAQ section that can be helpful for all parties to help understand what the potential options are.
Also consider the fact that often people are much more comfortable talking about specific medical issues – say an issue with their hip – as opposed to speaking about problems with their memory for example. Consider framing the initial conversation around more tangible health issues that they may be more comfortable talking about.
Make sure you are ready to tread carefully, always make it a discussion rather than simply putting across your thoughts and start with the smaller issues instead of immediately broaching the subject of care.
Understand the different types of care
Often the biggest arguments that arise around caring for elderly parents is about the level of care that’s required.
There are so many different options available it really pays to have a detailed understanding, so you can present a balanced view when you do have the discussion.
When it comes to home care for example, this could simply be assistance with everyday tasks around the home, whether washing up, doing the laundry or help with bathing and going to the toilet. Home care can also be an option when it comes to more complex healthcare for people suffering with dementia, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, long term and short term physical disabilities, and even spinal injuries that may require private nursing.
If they want to stay at home and retain as much independence as possible, home care can provide the essential support in only the areas they need it.
Research the options and let them know they can still be as independent as possible.
Get clued up on the finances
Families often argue when it comes to money.
First make sure you have a clear understanding of the costs of elderly home care vs. residential care. You then need to do your calculations as to how this will be paid for – whether through your own savings or combined with those of your siblings. It’s worthwhile setting aside some existing savings or opening a joint savings account with other siblings to make sure there is a pot in place when the time comes.
When you do speak to your parents, the finances must always come into it. You may actually be surprised to learn that it may be something they’ve already considered and have put money away for exactly this purpose. Often this is the case.
You may also be entitled to local authority funding for care at home. This guide from Which? details the process to apply.
Pick the right time to have the conversation
Timing is everything when you first sit down to speak to your parents about care.
If they are upset and worried about something, it may not be the best time to broach the issue. Put yourself in their shoes, considering their emotional state, and pick the right moment to first approach the conversation.
You also need to understand that you simply won’t get everything agreed and sorted in one conversation. That means that you need to set aside plenty of time for several open and honest chats.
Be aware that they may not want to talk to you about it
It can be a hard conversation for elderly parents to have with their children, and one they may simply refuse to have.
In this instance, it’s important to encourage them to speak to someone about it. The family GP is always a good option as they will have an understanding of their health history, and that of the family, and will be able to give impartial advice.
Always remember, it should be an ongoing and open discussion. Try and take the following into consideration:
- Involve and reassure your parents as much as possible throughout the process.
- Avoid conflict where possible.
- Always consider how they are feeling at different times and during your conversations.
- Tread carefully and don’t simply impose your view – for the right decisions to be made everyone involved needs to be open and honest.
It’s an extremely hard process for everyone to go through, but one that can have a very positive outcome if you approach it in the right manner.