Your complete guide to caring for elderly parents

The charity Age UK recently published research that suggests 6.6 million people worry that they won’t know how to support their elderly parents.

As people live for longer, more adult children are taking on these responsibilities. Many are already caring for elderly parents at home, helping them with tasks such as shopping, chores, and attending medical appointments.

If you’re caring for elderly parents, or will be doing in the future, we’ve put together a guide to help you navigate the journey ahead of you.

Tips and advice to help with caring for elderly parents

When figuring out the best way to care for your elderly parents now and in the future, there are many factors to consider. We’ve broken down the things to think about, so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming, and so you can start to put a plan together.

Understand your parent’s needs

If you’re looking after elderly parents, it’s important to understand what support they need now and in the future. Consider how much you’re able to get involved with the care and support, and how best to use your available time. Questions you might want to reflect on include:

  • How close do they live? Are they (or you) prepared to move closer?
  • Do they drive? How long can they reasonably continue to do this?
  • How suitable is their home as they age? Do they need to move or make adjustments such as installing stairlifts or adapted showers? Your GP can refer you to an occupational therapist who can advise on home adaptations
  • What are their health needs? Do these affect their mobility or ability to make decisions? Do they need specialist healthcare support?
  • What social interaction do they have, or other local support, to improve their quality of life?
  • What is their financial situation? Might they qualify for free social care support? What allowances might they (and you) be entitled to? Your Citizens Advice centre can advise you about this
  • What are your own needs and are you able to care for your elderly parents? Think about your job, health, family, location and relationship with your parents and siblings
  • What types of hourly or live-in care are available to support your parents?

You should also think about a lasting power of attorney (LPA), both the health and welfare LPA and property and financial affairs LPA. These enable your parents to appoint someone (or several people) to make decisions about their property, finance and health if they’re unable to.

Include your parents

We’d always recommend involving your parents in any decision-making about their care. It’s never too early to discuss the future with them, especially if they’re already struggling to cope.

We understand that talking about additional care needs with your parents can be challenging. They may not want to admit they aren’t coping. So, it’s important to let them know that your concern is coming from a genuine wish to help them. Talking about problems early on can also help you to solve them before there’s a crisis.

Take things slowly, respect their feelings and let them make decisions. This will help them face the future with confidence.

  • Ask them questions and help them reach their own decisions rather than telling them what you think. For example, ‘How do you feel about…’, ‘What might make you feel safer?’
  • Be aware of how you feel about the whole situation. It can be tough to see your parents struggle and you may feel more emotional than you’d expect
  • Avoid taking control and work with your parents to find the best solutions.
  • Be clear about what you’re able to do and what you can’t do
  • Find the right time to have a discussion
  • Most importantly, listen to your parents and try to understand what they are going through. Empathy and compassion are essential

Most people are fearful about losing their independence. It is likely that your parents will want to work with you to make the right decisions, without feeling they’re being forced. Ask them to consider:

  • Mobility – do they struggle with getting about, inside or outside?
  • Nutrition – can they prepare healthy meals?
  • Personal care – can they wash, dress, use the toilet unaided?
  • Medication – do they remember when to do this or do they need reminding?

Research and plan for the future

It’s never too early to plan for the future. And, unless it’s an emergency, taking time and talking things through will help you to make the right decisions with your parents and feel confident about the future. Signs that your parents may need additional support with everyday life include:

  • Frailty, including falls or other injuries
  • Loss of mobility
  • Hearing and/or sight loss
  • Memory problems, including forgetting to take their medication or pay bills on time
  • Confusion and growing anxieties
  • Poor nutrition
  • Poor personal hygiene

Create a routine

Most of us follow a routine in our everyday lives. It keeps things simple and saves energy. When planning support for your parents, try to follow their existing routine. Think about when they get up and go to bed, mealtimes, medication, exercise, and other activities. This can help them stay in control and remain independent for as long as possible.

Also, plan in time to call in on them or phone them at the same time each day. It will give you a chance to catch up with what’s going on and make sure they’re well cared for. It also makes it easier to spot if there are any problems early on.

Take care of yourself

You may want to take full responsibility for looking after your elderly parents, but you need to consider your own health and wellbeing too. Caring for someone can be both physically and emotionally exhausting. And you won’t be able to carry on if you don’t look after your own needs. That means, you’ll need to make sure you eat a healthy diet, take regular exercise, socialise, relax and enjoy life.

Also, don’t be afraid to access help when it is needed. Letting someone you trust provide respite care, or ongoing care, is essential when you feel like you need a break or more support.

Look into care at home

Finding the right care for your parents is essential. And there may be no reason why they can’t stay at home if they have the right professional support. So, what’s the best way to find the right care? Here are some simple steps.

  1. Find out if your parents are eligible for any council services or funding such as a disability living allowance or attendance allowance. Your GP, Citizens Advice or Citizens Information can advise you about this
  2. Find out if you are eligible for any allowances such as a carer’s allowance. Again, your GP, Citizens Advice or Citizens Information can provide advice and information
  3. If you’re considering private care, do some research into care agencies. Ask around for recommendations, talk to your GP or practice manager, and read reviews
  4. Think about whether your parents would benefit from domiciliary care or live-in care. Domiciliary care is where carers ‘pop in’ to carry out tasks such as personal care, meal preparation or shopping. Live-in care means 24/7 support
  5. Consider whether you need respite (short-term) care for an emergency or to give you a break

You may also want to research into care homes and other care facilities to get a full understanding of all the options that are available.

Get in touch

If you’re looking for respite care, live-in care or domiciliary care in Scotland or Ireland, the Nursing Guild can help – wherever and whenever you need us.

Get in touch today. Or, for more information, call our community team on 0333 323 1917.

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