With today's medical advances, humans are living longer than ever before. As a result, many people are faced with the challenge of caring for their elderly parents or relatives. And there isn't a one size fits all option when it comes to providing care for seniors.
Navigating elder care can be a difficult, stressful experience. But, in order to make informed decisions about how best to take care of your loved ones, it's important to know what different options are available for elderly care in your area.
What do you need to consider with elderly care?
There was a time when nursing homes were the only option for elderly people. But these facilities can be very expensive, and they're not always necessary. For most people, they simply need additional support with a few activities of daily living, they don't need the full facilities of a nursing home.
But, even if your elderly relative does require skilled nursing, they might not want to move out of their home, or be separated from their loved ones. And they don't have to.
In recent years, options for elderly care have expanded rapidly, and it's now possible to receive high-quality care at home, negating the need to move away from familiar surroundings into a care home.
Seniors can choose to live out their golden years in the comfort of their own home, while still maintaining their independence and enjoying quality time with their families and friends.
How to choose an elder care option
Because there are so many options available, how do you know what elder care solution is right for your relative?
Essentially though, it's going to come down to the option where the senior feels comfortable, safe. It's also vital the option you choose fits within the available budget.
What are their specific needs and requirements?
- Do they simply need to downsize with the added security of having a warden on hand 24/7?
- Do they need assistance with basic daily tasks such as preparing meals or medications?
- Do they require a full time carer to help them with household tasks and personal care?
- Or do they need acute nursing care?
What types of elder care are available?
Home care services
Not every elderly person needs full time care, nor do they need to move into a residential care home. Simply getting additional support to help them out with basic household tasks a few hours a week, can be all that is needed at first.
In-home carers provide care in the home when an older person only needs assistance with parts of daily living. For example, they can provide housekeeping services such as cooking, cleaning, or clothes washing. And/or personal care services such as toileting, bathing, help with dressing, or mealtimes.
You can source in home care providers through the local authority, or you can opt to go private with dedicated agencies.
Most local authorities can provide care at a basic level, but due to time and budget constraints, it may not be the same person who comes every time, and they may be restricted in what they can assist with.
If your relative has more complex care requirements, it may be better to contact professional domiciliary care agencies, who specialise in providing independent care services.
The benefit of the latter option is that you get to choose the level and type of care you need. And the agency creates a tailored package of daily hours and tasks for you, depending on your elder care requirements.
Live-in home care
As your elderly relative's needs progress, you might need a full time live in carer, e.g. someone on hand, providing care 24/7. If that's the case, live-in home care allows seniors to remain in their own homes, living independently, but with the peace of mind that a fully trained caregiver is living with them.
Live-in caregivers can be family members or friends, or if budget allows, professional caregivers who provide different levels of aid depending on your needs and budget.
The caregiver is available to provide 24/7 care, assisting with daily activities such as meal preparation, taking medicines, providing transportation services, help getting up from bed or a chair, as well as more personal care services such as showering or toileting.
The benefit of this form of care is that the caregiver is a constant in the senior's life, so they don't just provide a care service, they become a companion, or even a friend.
If you choose to go down the private, live in care route, a private agency will source and vet suitable carers for you. They'll check references and run background checks, so you can be safe in the knowledge that the person coming to live with your relative in their home is trustworthy.
If your loved one has more complex requirements, live-in care can allow them to maintain their quality of life, in their own home, while having someone there to watch out for them at all times, negating the upheaval and relocation to a residential care home.
Residential care homes
Residential care homes don't automatically equate to nursing homes. There are different types of facilities available to provide care out of the home, depending on the senior's needs. These types of facilities can provide long term, short term, emergency, respite, even palliative care to older people.
Residential care homes tend to be a middle ground between living at home and a nursing home. They provide accommodation and access to 24/7 care and support to people with low care needs who can't live independently, but don't yet require acute nursing care. Each resident gets their own bedroom, which depending on the home, they can personalise to make it feel more like 'theirs'.
The main benefits of a residential care home is that it not only provides a level of support to elderly residents that they wouldn't otherwise get at home, but they can also deliver recreational programs such as planned outings and activities, and opportunities to socialise, all of which can help combat loneliness.
The average cost of a residential care home is £700 per week. Depending on the elderly person's financial situation, financial support may be provided by the local authority.
Elderly assisted living
Assisted living is similar to residential care, in that seniors move out of their own homes, however it affords residents a certain degree of independent living that residential care homes do not.
Assisted living is not suitable for an older person with more complex needs, e.g. someone who requires full time nursing care, however it's a good option for someone who has mobility limitations, for example.
Assisted living can be part of a retirement community or independent living communities. Examples of independent living facilities include:
These are often small houses, or flats where the residents have their own front doors, so they have privacy in their own 'space', however there is a warden on site to assist residents if necessary. All residents are given personal alarms, and the apartments are equipped with emergency call buttons, so residents can summon assistance if necessary.
This type of elder care option works best for independent older people who are used to living on their own, or who are still capable of looking after their own day to day needs, but with the added security of a warden on hand, should they need them in an emergency.
Sheltered accommodation can be rented or purchased, and there are a variety of different care options to suit different needs.
Nursing homes are for seniors with acute needs. They are staffed with qualified, registered nurses and dedicated care support workers. If your elderly relative has more complex needs, e.g. a life limiting condition, a nursing home could be the best place for them.
Some nursing homes provide more specialist care, for example, caring for people with dementia, Alzheimer's disease, or severe learning disabilities.
The average cost of a nursing home is £900 per week.
When considering elder care, respite care is a crucial aspect of it. This is a service that provides relief to the caregivers of an elderly person.
Respite care can be in the form of another family member, professional caregiver, family friend, or simply an adult day care facility. At its most basic, it's an opportunity for the primary caregiver to get a break, while the person being cared for receives the same level of support they need.
Respite care can be anything from a few hours of assistance to several days at a time.
Choosing an elder care solution
It can be overwhelming to decide which elder care option is right for you or your loved one. There are many options available and each one comes with its own pros and cons.
But, it's important to do your homework because you will find an affordable, sustainable solution that will give your loved one the most comfortable lifestyle possible, whether it's at home, or in an assisted living facility.
This article is part of myTamarin's Mental Health Awareness Week blog series looking into how employers should be supporting through critical life events. This one looks into the impact elder care can have on mental health.Read post