Issues facing family carers of elderly

Caring for ageing parents can put a huge strain on families, particularly those people who may also be looking after young children at the same time

There are both emotional and financial implications to try and negotiate, and if the parent or parents being looked after have a degenerative condition, such as Alzheimer’s, those caring for them can feel overwhelmed by the responsibility and unsure how best to meet the needs of their parent and their own family at the same time

This problem is going to be one that increasing numbers of families will have to face, as the UK population ages

By 2034, 23% of the population is projected to be aged 65 and over, compared to only 18% being aged under 16 and over 3 million people are projected to be over the age of 80

Currently there are 750,000 people in the UK with dementia, of which two thirds are women

The number of older people in the UK in need of care and support is expected to reach 1.7 million over the next 20 years, and it is estimated that by 2025, over one million people will have dementia, which is a truly terrifying statistic

Issues facing family carers

Many of these people are already looked after by family member. It is estimated that family carers save the state around £6 billion a year and that currently 12% of the adult population in the UK is a carer of an elderly relative

With a stagnant economy, austerity measures and budget cuts to all major services, including care, the state may not be able to provide care for all individuals and more and more families will need to care for their elderly relatives, as well as work for a living and care for their young families at the same time

In addition, these carers will themselves need to work for longer to help the state fund the needs of this ageing population

‘Elderly Parent Responsibility Stress Syndrome’ (or EPRSS) has been coined as a phrase to describe how many of us feel when faced with the idea of caring for ageing parents

Whilst not all families will find themselves in extremely stressful situations as they adjust to looking after an elderly parent, taking on more responsibility for their parents does have significant emotional implications for all members of the family

Sometimes, caring for an elderly parent can add responsibility just at the point that children leave home and people might have had more time on their hands. This can also lead to resentment

Often just broaching the subject of care with a parent, whichever care route is chosen, can be fraught with difficulty, particularly if a parent is struggling to maintain their own independence and unwilling to admit they need help

Additionally, caring for a parent can add significant financial strain for families, as care of any sort is expensive and local authority budgets are means tested, taking into account all assets

Carers must share their concerns

Many family carers keep their fears, worries and guilt to themselves, yet so many people are in the same situation and many more will be in the future, so sharing concerns, anxieties and experiences with others is critical

Telling others of their care issues and concerns often means that other people can help, even if it’s only by lending a supportive ear for a while

Carers should be careful not neglect their own health at this stressful time either

Making the right care decisions

In order to deal effectively with care decisions in an informed way, talk to the elderly person’s  GP and establish what the issues are and what is being done about them

Local authorities are also there to help. Remember, however, that it helps to understand what options a GP and local authority might be able to provide, so a carer should undertake research on what medical and care options might be available before contacting them

This means the carer can be well informed and authoritative on all available options and ensure they get the best care possible

Family carers also need to consider what care options are available for their parent

Can their parent remain in their own home and if so, what kind of support do they need?

Can this be provided via the local authority and is the standard of care what they would wish for their own parent?

Helping a parent remain at home for as long as possible does generally keep them happier and more secure and in the case of dementia, can help maintain their memories by remaining in familiar surroundings

In many situations, though, providing home care is not feasible, or not enough to cope with the need.

If it’s not, then another option is to bring their parent to live with them, but this can put strain on their family relationship

People must be realistic about how much time it might take to care for their parent at home and how their relationship with their partner might suffer, as well as the time they can devote to their own family especially if they have young children

In addition, people may have to adapt their homes and deal with intimate personal care, which both they and their parent might find distressing. However, there are some benefits to having a parent at home

It is easier to oversee the care of a parent and ensure they have company, pleasant surroundings, get taken out, eat properly and receive plenty of personal care, attention and love

In addition, bringing a parent into the home means that the family carer will not have to travel backwards and forwards to care for them, or make expensive financial arrangements for their care and of course, the whole family can enjoy precious time with their parent or grandparent

Caring from a distance can be a huge strain on families and the guilt factor is ever-present. People can muster local friends and neighbours to help and assist with online shopping, as well as keeping in touch by Skype, but if someone lives any distance away from their parent, the caring options are even more complicated, as are the emotional ones

People also come up against family disagreements at this point about what is best for their parent and old sibling rivalries can often rear their heads. These conflicts should be dealt with as soon as possible and roles agreed between family members so as to reduce resentment

Care home options

If bringing a parent to live at home is not a viable option, then it may be necessary to consider care home options and again, these decisions are fraught with guilt and worry about quality of care and happiness of the older person

If a care home is necessary, then it is important to take time to visit the various options available and not to be afraid to ask as many questions as needed to ensure that the home will be the right environment and level of care up to standard. Visiting at meal times can be a real eye-opener

There is a huge range of options available in terms of care homes, ranging from sheltered housing, retirement villages, care homes with or without nursing care and hospices for the terminally ill

Remember to think about both the current and possible future needs of your parent when choosing a home, so as to avoid having to move them again

Overall, having to care for an elderly parent friend or relative may well bring additional stresses and time demands, but if you try and make sure you are fully informed of all the options available, it may prove a little bit easier and more rewarding.

myageingparent has teamed up with Grace Consulting to offer you expert care advice

Grace Consulting provides affordable fee-based independent advice to help you choose the best care option to suit you and your relative’s needs and wishes. Our Care Advisers provide the knowledge and support you need to make the right decision for you and your family. myageingparent.com is partnering with Grace Consulting, the UK’s leading provider of personalised independent care advice, who, for over 40 years, has specialised in finding the best possible care for older people. Please note this is not an Age Concern or Age UK service.

Call now on 01483 209626 to get the help and advice you need at our preferential discounted rates

Or fill in the form and we will contact you,

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