Caring for a relative can be very stressful, and as more and more of us live longer, an increasing percentage of the population are faced with the prospect of caring for an elderly parent.
As children, we often feel a sense of duty towards our parents. After all, they have always been there for us; they’ve raised us and looked after us. And suddenly it’s our turn to be the caretakers. The problem is, the decision about what might be best for an elderly parent is often made under pressure, when illness or an accident has forced you to consider whether your mother or father is actually able to cope living in their own home.
This sense of duty translates to feelings of guilt if you find yourself considering nursing home care. But caring for your parent at home comes with its own set of issues. Here are some of the issues you might face:
It’s normal to feel stressed if your parent comes to live with you. It can place severe strain on both family relationships and financial resources. Your spouse or partner, any children living at home, your parent, your job; all of them make demands on your time, and you find yourself frantically trying to keep all those plates spinning.
If you are caring for an elderly parent, you have the right (in the UK) to request flexible working hours from your employer if you have worked there for more than months. However, they do not have to grant your request.
It’s important to take a break now and then. Don’t overlook your own health when caring for your parent. Investigate respite care options, or see if a sibling can look after your parent for a few days whilst you take a holiday. Age UK and Carers UK can also help, with advice and tips.
Elder Care and Family Disputes
Aside from the demands on your time, caring for a relative can sometimes lead to disputes, where two or more members of the family disagree on the best choice of care for their parent. Or if one sibling feels they are shouldering more of the burden than another.
If possible, try and keep everyone involved, even if your siblings live far away, and let them know what they can do to help. Even if it’s just a supportive phonecall now and again.
And make sure you get a carer’s assessment. You have the right to request this, and it can be very helpful in deciding upon your options. If your parent is able, include him or her in the decision making process.
If your mother or father has come to live with you, it can be socially isolating for both parties. You might find that you don’t have the time to spend with your friends anymore, because your parent needs your care and support. You might also feel that friends and other family do not understand the strain put on you.
And for your parent, it is possible that he or she will have had to move away from a circle of friends into a new area, not to mention the fact that health or mobility issues may make it very difficult to leave the house.
Let your GP know you’re a carer, and he or she might be able to tell you about carers’ support groups in your area, where you can meet others in similar situations and share tips and advice.
If your parent has had a fall, or is suffering from dementia, they might require a level of care that you are not able to give: lifting, bathing, continence care, etc. If this is the case, respite care, or a nursing home might be the best option. Although you might feel guilty about it, you really need to consider what is best for your parent.
Make sure you do your research, and write out a list of important criteria that you can measure homes you visit against. Do residents have their own rooms, for example? Is there a program of activities and events? Is the food varied, and do they cater for various dietary requirements? Decide what’s most important to you, and to your parent and use that to inform your decision.
Fortunately, there is a lot of support for carers of elderly parents. Your GP will be able to offer help, Carers UK can offer advice on caring for an elderly parent, and you can seek advice on caring from Age UK as well. They can advise on benefits, respite care and other areas that will make your life – and that of your parent – much easier.
More Info: Cairn Technology are a health, safety and environmental consultancy specializing in infection prevention in care homes and nursing homes. They supply infection control & continence care products to residential homes across the UK.