If you are currently gearing up to have a ‘big talk’ about the future with your elderly parents, you’re probably feeling a bit nervous about the outcome. Thankfully, I do not have to worry about this as both of my parents are in their 50’s, but it does make me worry about how things will be. Especially as I have watched how things with my GrandFathers have developed over the years, it’s difficult. It’s an emotional rollercoaster for everyone involved. While making decisions on behalf of a mentally diminished parent can be emotionally draining, there are fewer worries about how to approach the situation and how to bring up the subject of outside care. With cognitively able parents, it can be tough just getting past the mental barrier that says ‘I’m the child. I can’t be in charge of this.’
These are your parents. Your authority figures and the people whom you admire more than anybody else. This kind of discussion is hard, but the key to keeping it positive is honesty and transparency. What you want to avoid is telling your parents what is going to happen or how they are going to live their remaining years; nobody – particularly seniors – wants to have their control completely withdrawn. Ask questions, make suggestions, and come to a practical decision as a family. There are a variety of aged care packages available and this guide to the main housing options for elderly parents in the UK will help you choose the most appropriate solution for your folks.
Staying At Home
This is the ideal situation for most parents and it should be seriously considered if it could be a safe, secure, and practical solution. However, there must be a lot of honesty and sensible discussion about remaining at home. The question is whether or not your parents can live a healthy, happy existence without moving off site, to an environment with more immediate care. Even with adaptations – like stair lifts and grab rails – they must be able to feed, wash, and look after themselves with minimal risk.
Moving to a Care Home
The most common option after making adaptations to an existing home is moving your parents into a full time care facility. This is not an easy decision, but modern care homes are extremely comfortable. They are not like hospitals or end of life clinics. They hold activities, take residents on day trips, and allow people as much independence as is physically appropriate. One of the best things about care homes is that they give parents a chance to be around lots of other older folks with similar interests.
Opting for Sheltered Housing
If a care home seems like a drastic measure and your parents are keen to hold onto a completely private and personal space, sheltered housing is a good option. Sheltered flats or bungalows are usually part of a supervised and managed site; they have a warden and a care team on the premises so that residents can access routine or emergency assistance if they need it. The key here is that older people are left to decide for themselves if they want this help. Sheltered homes always include an emergency ‘panic button,’ in case of trips or falls.
Accepting Assisted Living
Assisted living has some similarities with sheltered housing, but the difference is that users tend to stay in their own homes. A nurse or care provider visits the property at arranged times to monitor their health and help them out with everyday tasks like shopping, cooking, and cleaning the house. This option is only suitable if your parents are mobile enough to safely care for themselves in between visits. If they are, however, it can be very rewarding, because the relationship between patient and carer is friendly and relaxed.
Why Tackling the ‘Big Talk’ Head On Is Always Best
It is important to realise that your parents aren’t stupid. They know better than anybody else if they are struggling to keep up with daily routines. They might have a million justifications for not bringing it to your attention, but it’s unlikely to be a surprise to them. So, whispering behind their back is only likely to alienate them and make them feel alone. If possible, tackle the issue head and approach the discussion with sensitivity, honesty, and compassion.
If you have any other suggestions on how to deal with this kind of discussion, I would love to hear your comments below.
Elderly care home image by ShutterStock.