Caring for an elderly parent – where to start?

b 2Caring for an elderly parent – where to start? That’s very ‘up’ for me at the moment.

We’ve been in rescue mode, driving an 86 year old for hours from a place of social isolation and increasing depression and anxiety to… well, you hope a place of some comfort and company but have to recognise it’s also in reality an unfamiliar household with different patterns, pace and rules.

We’ve been negotiating each other and trying to find a pace, space and rhythm that’s sustainable while managing the growing dependency of a frail, tired, confused, sometimes sullen, oft-times perky wee soul.

We all know it’s not a long term solution and we’re tripping over each other a bit.

What to do? Find her a flat? Have her live with us? Look for sheltered housing? What’s supported living or assisted living vs a care home?

I was so grateful yesterday to have a conversation with a friend who is an experienced social services manager and able to help navigate these unknown waters.

From our discussion, she wondered whether ‘mum’, though she can be bright at a button, might be experiencing early stages of dementia. That threw a different light on some of the exchanges and behaviours we’ve experienced recently and could explain the fairly rapid demise from living alone and independently to needing full-time care.

My friend offered some words of wisdom that were comforting, helpful and provided us with some clarity – caught up as we are in coulds and shoulds and what ifs:

“It’s inappropriate for you and her for her to live with you long-term.”

“She needs people her own age around her.”

“It’s better to make one move, so it’s not ideal to think about getting her her own flat to see how she gets on and if that doesn’t work think sheltered housing. It would be best to move to sheltered housing while she’s more able.”

“She needs help to living as independently as possible and then she can learn to grow again.”

“Better to aim for Very Sheltered Housing (7 day care with mental health support) or Sheltered Housing in a complex attached to Very Sheltered Housing provision.

Finding a place to live – nightmare!

When caring for an elderly parent isn’t sustainable at home (theirs or yours), there should be easy steps to take. But I haven’t found it so.

(What I’m describing below applies in Scotland… check your own Government website for guidance… and let me know if you get on any better!)

  • I started by checking the Care Inspectorate website for their inspections reports of homes, as advised by my friend. “Look for the 5-star or Very Good ones,” she said. The ones rated Good or 4 can be fairly broad apparently.

Landing on their search page, I put in a geographical filter: ‘Glasgow’. On the next page I selected filters:

  • ‘Care Home Service’ then sub filter ‘Care Home Service Adult’ then sub-sub ‘Care homes for older people’
  •  Grades: selecting only the ‘Very Good’ reports.
  • Size: we selected ‘medium’ and ‘small’ just to filter down the numbers.

We got 49 places. All Care Homes. Not what we were looking for.

I phoned the Care Inspectorate. The helpful guy said to select ‘Housing Services’. There’s no way of selecting Very Sheltered Housing. We applied the Very Good filter again and got 173 results. Some are clearly not Sheltered Housing (like Women’s Housing provision). He advised that we’d have to then ‘View report’ to see the PDF Inspectorate report. On the sample I selected, I had to get to page 5 and the 10th paragraph “About the Service” to discover the one I was reading didn’t provide Sheltered Housing. Boy, this is going to be a mission then. I guess we’ll just go by postcodes as a starting point to whittle them down.

(See National Care Standards to understand how their inspections work).

The next thing to do is go visit. Look for places with a warm atmosphere, friendly staff,  good range of activities and outings, outdoor space or a conservatory, mental health support.

Support

My friend also advised to visit a local Carers Centre – so I Googled this to find the nearest and got an appointment for next week. I’ll report back on how they can help.

She also said to ask for Carers Assessment because at this stage, pretty much full-time care is needed and we’re having to rota this among us.

Information

She recommended checking out a bit on dementia. We have the wonderful resource that is Stirling University’s Dementia Centre within driving distance… or a click away online… see Eileen’s Answers to a whole range of issues over the past years.  I get their weekly Alzheimers newsletter for caregivers and professionals.

Issues

Because our elderly parent lives in another Council area, our Social Services will have to recharge that Council. I’ll report back on any issues we come across there.

Timing

How long might it take to find Very Sheltered Housing? Who knows. It’s impossible to say… just depends on the waiting lists. Again, I’ll report back on progress.

Thank heavens for Final Fling

I have to say, we’re now feeling grateful as this life becomes frailer, that we did the whole Final Fling planning thing over dinner a few years ago – able to enjoy adding favourite tunes and instructions to funeral Wishes, and we got the Will and Power of Attorney stuff sorted and stored securely in Fling’s Safe Deposit Box, so when ageing means death feel a little more looming and less fun to engage with, some issues are already out of the way and we can get on with watching Strictly together and enjoying the moments.

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Let us know how you cope, the issues you experience, where you find useful information and support, the choices you make in Your Story section.

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