Caring for elderly family members used to quite simply be the role of the younger family members when our communities were more close-knit than they are today. Elderly parents would often live with their adult children in their homes – it was quite normal and grand children would grow up in the same home as their grand parents. But In today’s changing society the situation is very different because the younger generation have often moved away from where they grew up – they go off to university and then make their homes elsewhere often in a bigger town or city where they can successfully build their career. Although this may not always be through choice as some adults are priced out of their home areas as housing costs have increased drastically in many parts of the UK, and particularly in the South East.
So when different generations of families no longer live in the same area then those communities are much less united. And if you live a long way from your parents who will care for them when they get older and less able to cope on their own? People are living to a much older age now thanks to medical advances and an awareness of leading a healthy lifestyle – older people are much more active than earlier generations – well into their 70’s and 80’s often, but for many there will come a time, sooner or later, when they find it difficult to cope with everyday tasks. Tasks such as preparing and cooking food, getting dressed, taking a bath – things that were once done with little thought can become difficult or even dangerous.
The downside to living a longer life is that these elderly people often require care with everyday tasks. Medically they might be quite well but bodies still get older and are less able to climb the stairs or perform simple tasks like bathing or cooking and cleaning. As well as physical limitations many elderly people suffer from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, which can have a serious effect on a person’s ability to look after themselves.
Be pro-active about care options
It is a good idea to look into care options sooner rather than later – don’t wait until there is a crisis situation when you will have to make a quick decision which may not necessarily be the best decision for your elderly relative.
Many illnesses that affect mobility and other functions reveal symptoms and can be diagnosed long before they become a problem so it is possible to plan for care well in advance. And it is certainly possible to raise the issue and have a frank discussion about it with your relative – it’s just that most people tend not to.
Yet elderly relatives may want to be involved in researching care options – they may not even be aware that there are alternatives to the typical residential care home. How many people, for example, know that you can have a live-in carer come and live in your own home and look after you there? This is called home care or live in care and the people who choose this as a career find that becoming a carer is more rewarding than working in a residential care home.
Live-in care or home care means that a person can stay in familiar surroundings, with all their own possessions; they can keep any pets they may have and will remain close to friends and neighbours. They can eat when they like and what they like – sit in their own garden and even work in their own garden if their health is up to it. Live-in care is a little know option but a life-changing one for many elderly people.