Caring for elderly parents – advice & support

Looking after an elderly parent as they get older is a common responsibility that many of us encounter at some stage in our lives. It’s a transition that can bring about a mix of emotions and challenges. As our loved ones grow older and require more assistance, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed or unsure of where to turn.

If you’re finding yourself in the role of caregiver for a parent or loved one who is ageing or dealing with health issues, it’s important to know that support is available. There are resources and assistance programs designed to help make this journey feel less daunting and more manageable for the entire family.

At Oxford Aunts, we recognise the complexities and emotions involved in caring for elderly parents. Our compassionate live-in carers are here to offer the support and assistance you and your loved ones need, while ensuring a quality of life that respects their dignity and independence.

Becoming a carer for an elderly parent

As our loved ones age, it’s natural that their needs may change, and they need additional support to navigate daily life with ease.

When elderly parents reach a stage where self-care becomes challenging, it’s comforting to know there’s a reliable support system in place to ensure they receive the physical and emotional assistance necessary for maintaining independence and comfort at home.

Understanding the best form of care for your parents can be overwhelming. To help guide you through this process, we’ve outlined some considerations to make, each designed to enhance your loved one’s quality of life.

Establish their needs

Understanding and meeting the unique needs of your elderly parent is an important first step, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution in caregiving. Conducting a thorough assessment to identify their specific requirements is essential for providing effective care.

You could start by asking your loved ones where they feel they could use extra support. Some factors to consider might include:

  • Housekeeping
  • Medication management
  • Cooking and eating meals
  • Personal care routines
  • Mobility in and out of the home
  • Companionship
  • Caring for pets

Part of this assessment involves considering the professional assistance your parents may require. While they may be hesitant to accept outside help, it’s important to present them with options rather than imposing decisions upon them. Offering choices allows them to feel empowered and respected.

For example, exploring the option of at-home carers can reassure your parents that they can remain in the comfort of their own home while receiving support from familiar and friendly staff.

Alternatively, you may choose to take on the role of caregiver yourself, depending on your circumstances and preferences. What’s important is to establish your parent’s care needs and find an appropriate solution to meet them that works for all parties involved.

Create a routine together

Establishing routines can bring a sense of comfort and stability to both you and your parents, fostering a closer bond and making daily life easier. However, it’s crucial to involve your loved one in the process and ensure that they feel heard and respected.

When setting routines, prioritise open communication and collaboration. Your parent should feel that their preferences and desires are valued and that they have a say in shaping their daily routine. Be sure to listen to their input, address any concerns they may have, and make adjustments as needed to ensure their comfort and well-being.

Examples of routines to consider when looking after ageing parents include:

  • Morning and bedtime routines
  • Meal times
  • Medication schedules
  • Enjoying leisurely walks or outdoor activities
  • Dividing household chores in a way that feels manageable and fair
  • Social activities and hobbies

Taking a break from caring

Caring for a loved one can be both incredibly rewarding and demanding. It’s essential to recognise when you need to take a break and prioritise your own well-being, so that you can, in turn, provide the best support to your loved ones. This is where respite care comes in – providing you with the opportunity to recharge and attend to your own needs while your loved ones are well looked after.

Respite care offers temporary support for carers by providing substitute care for your loved one while you, or the primary carer, take a break. This can take various forms depending on your circumstances and preferences, allowing you to tailor the arrangement to best suit your needs.

Respite care options include:

  • Respite care at home: Temporary support in your home, giving you time for personal matters or self-care while your loved one is cared for. Learn how respite care for the elderly can help.
  • Short-term care facilities: Temporary stays in care facilities for round-the-clock assistance.
  • Activity groups or day centers: Regular attendance for your loved one, offering social interaction while you take a consistent caregiving break.

Working and caring

Being a carer and working full time can be challenging, but there are options available to help you manage both effectively. If your current employer has employed you for six months or more, you may have the right to request flexible working arrangements to help fulfil your caregiving responsibilities.

Flexible working arrangements can provide you with the flexibility you need while caring for elderly parents and maintaining your employment. Whether it’s adjusting your work hours, working remotely, or adopting a compressed workweek, these arrangements can help you find a work pattern that suits your caregiving responsibilities while allowing you to take care of yourself too.

Age UK has a helpful guide to get you started.

Support for elderly loneliness & social isolation

While taking care of your ageing parents, be sure to keep an eye out for the signs of loneliness and social isolation. As we age, social circles tend to shrink, leaving us with fewer connections to lean on. Loneliness can be devastating, particularly for those over 75 who may live in social isolation. Many older people feel reluctant to share feelings of loneliness, but offering support and companionship can make a significant difference to their well-being.

While family members play a crucial role in providing practical support for elderly parents, it’s essential to acknowledge that they may not always be able to fulfil an elderly person’s social needs alone. Between work commitments, personal responsibilities, and the nature of familial relationships, it can be challenging to provide constant companionship and social interaction.

Encouraging your parents to engage in community activities, join social groups, or seek support from organisations like Age UK can offer valuable opportunities for social interaction and companionship.

Our guide on preventing social isolation in the elderly has more information.

Caring for a parent with dementia at home

Caring for a parent with dementia at home presents unique challenges and responsibilities. It’s essential to create a supportive and safe environment that meets their evolving needs while ensuring their comfort and well-being.

Caring for a loved one with dementia

From managing daily routines to addressing behavioural changes, here are some key considerations for providing effective dementia care:

  • Establishing a structured routine: Establishing a consistent daily routine can provide stability and reduce anxiety for both you and your parent with dementia. Try and ensure that daily activities such as meals, medication, and personal care are conducted at the same time each day to help your loved one familiarise themselves with the routine.
  • Ensuring safety and accessibility: Adapt the home environment to reduce hazards and promote independence. This may include installing handrails, removing tripping hazards, and using labels or visual cues to aid navigation. Our guide on preventing falls in the elderly can help.
  • Effective communication: Communicating with a parent with dementia requires patience and understanding. Use simple language, maintain eye contact, and offer reassurance and validation. Listen actively and be attentive to nonverbal cues, respecting their dignity and autonomy throughout the interaction.
  • Managing behavioural changes: Dementia can cause changes in behaviour and mood, ranging from agitation and aggression to withdrawal and apathy. Learn to recognise triggers and patterns and develop strategies to de-escalate challenging situations.

Seeking support for yourself

When you’re focused on caring for someone else, it’s easy to neglect your own needs. However, prioritising your health and well-being is essential for your ability to cope with the demands of caregiving.

Caring for a loved one with dementia can evoke a range of emotions, including guilt, sadness, confusion, and anger. Unlike other conditions, it may be challenging to discuss these feelings with the person with dementia, leading to a sense of isolation.

Joining a carers’ group can offer valuable support. These groups provide a safe space to share experiences, receive advice, and connect with others who understand what you’re going through. Many groups offer a range of activities and opportunities for socialising, providing a much-needed break from the demands of caregiving.

For information on local carers’ groups, consider reaching out to these organisations and enquire about support groups local to you:

Online groups offer a valuable source of support, particularly for those who may be unable to attend in-person meetings or require assistance outside of traditional hours. If you’re looking for a supportive online community, try the Dementia Support Forum (Alzheimer’s Society).

How do I get care for my elderly parents?

Sometimes, it may be necessary to turn to a professional care service to ensure our elderly parents receive the support they deserve. Whether due to increased care needs, personal limitations, or other factors, seeking assistance from professional carers can provide invaluable support and peace of mind for the whole family.

Check if you are entitled to any benefits

Being a carer for a family member or friend may entitle you to certain government benefits or incentives. One such benefit is Carer’s Allowance, a weekly payment of £76.75. It’s important to note that Carer’s Allowance is taxable and may affect other benefits you currently receive or plan to claim in the future.

To be eligible for Carer’s Allowance, the person you care for must also claim at least one of the following benefits:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Child/Adult Disability Payment
  • Disablement Benefit

Carer’s Credit offers National Insurance credits to bridge gaps in a carer’s National Insurance record and contribute towards their State Pension. Claimants must provide care for a minimum of 20 hours per week to qualify. Carer’s Credit remains claimable even during short breaks in caring, lasting up to 12 weeks. These benefits provide vital support for carers, helping them maintain their caring responsibilities while securing their financial future.

The NHS has a helpful guide on benefits for carers.

Understand your care options

Carers for elderly parents should consider all available care options to ensure their loved ones receive the support they need. From home care services to residential facilities, understanding the choices at your disposal empowers you to make informed decisions that best suit your family’s needs.

Learn everything you need to know about choosing a care provider.

Get a carer’s assessment

Contact the social services department of the council covering the area where the person you care for resides. You can usually request a carer’s assessment online through the council’s website. Inform them of your role as a carer and request a comprehensive assessment. It’s advisable to seek an assessment if your needs change or if you require additional support.

After the assessment

Following the assessment, you’ll receive information about their eligibility for funding from the council. If deemed eligible, the council will outline how it plans to meet your loved one’s care needs, which may involve referrals to other support organisations. You have the option to receive a direct payment instead of services provided by the council, providing you with greater flexibility and control over your care arrangements.

Even if your loved one is not eligible for support, the council is obligated to provide advice and information about other sources of support available in your local area. This could include assistance from local charities or support organisations.

There are options available if you have to self-fund your own care.

Talk to our friendly advisors

Our expert care advisors are here to help you understand your options, including accessing funding. Contact us today, and we will be happy to discuss your or a loved one’s care needs and how we can help.

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