Sooner or later, we will all need some care and support in later life to remain as independent, dignified and happy as possible. For some, that level of senior care will be minimal, for others, they will depend on the workforce of carers to help them maintain quality of life on a day-to-day basis.
Nobody wants to think about needing care, but the sensible choice for each and every person is to think about care as early as a possible. Emotionally, physically and financially, care needs preparation and consideration to ensure that it is the right type of care. You deserve to have a great later life planned, with care decisions made should you need help.
As part of that plan, finding the right type of care is essential – there are more options than just care homes so make sure you know what sort of care is available to you. There is no reason why anyone should be forced into a care home so arm yourself with the knowledge to avoid this if it isn’t what you want. In this guide we hope to give you plenty of information to help you find and plan the right care so that you can have the high quality later life that you would hope for. Read on for lots of useful tips, information and resources to get you started in your senior care research:
Understanding Your Senior Care Options
It is vital to understand your care options when you are planning later life care. It is impossible to make the most informed decision without knowing what all your choices are, and what they involve. Here are some key elderly care options and what they involve:
Live-in care is a great alternative to a residential care home. It is where a person in need of care remains in their own home, with their partner, pets and belongings and receives care from a professional carer at home. The carer will live in their own room within the house and provide care throughout the day and night, with allotted breaks and usually the ability to be reached during those breaks. Usually they will work for two weeks and then alternate with another carer.
The care they provide is usually based on companionship and basic care, such as helping the person get dressed, get washed and eat. They may also perform light cooking and cleaning. In addition, carers can provide additional services like pet care, garden care, accompaniment on trips and driving services. Often, additional services are unlikely to come with local authority funded live-in care, and will have to be privately funded. Live-in care can also involve specialist care for conditions like dementia or following a stroke.
Domiciliary care is care provided in the home, just like live-in care. The only difference is that the carer doesn’t live in the home and may provide care at a set time every day instead. A domiciliary carer is likely to visit many different patients each day. Often, domiciliary care progresses into live-in care as a person’s senior care needs change.
Residential Care Homes
Care homes vary in the facilities and types of care they provide and, hence, in the cost.
They provide accommodation for the residents they take care of usually in the form of a single room and a bathroom.
Depending on where you live there may, or may not, be a choice of care homes available. Because there might only be one care home (or none) in a certain postcode area, a person may have to move quite a distance away from their original home in order to find residential care with an available place for them.
As well as accommodation, residential care homes also provide all meals, helping residents eat, helping them wash and get dressed, aiding with toileting, and managing medication schedules.
Many care homes also have social events where professionals come in and run exercise classes, craft classes and performances to add diversity to the residents lives.
It is also important to note that there are different types of nursing care available. The most common is a care home which offers food, a place to stay and basic personal care. However, there are also special care homes for people with dementia and for those with specific conditions that required more complex nursing care.
Some care homes are specially designed to support a person with a known progressive condition where they may need basic care to start, but more applied nursing care as their condition progresses. The reason for these special care homes is to avoid the resident needing to move homes to suit their changing needs, which can be quite traumatic for the elderly.
Care homes can be run by the council, charities and other non-profit organisations, and by private companies.
It may be that you do not need residential care, or a live-in carer. It may be that a specially designed home with access to help would suit you the best. Many of the issues affecting the elderly can be resolved by moving to sheltered housing. It is designed for the elderly to live safely, and independently, in a protected environment where help is on hand if they need it.
More often than not the accommodation will be in the form of apartments in a block, but there are also developments with individual houses and larger accommodation depending on the facility. In most cases you can rent or buy the housing yourself, and there might be some sheltered housing a local authority can place you in, if you meet their eligibility criteria.
In all instances the least a sheltered accommodation is likely to provide is a manager on site who is there to speak to if you need help, who also maintains any communal areas. You will also likely have an alarm you can use if you fall or need emergency help. In some instances there are additional services available like domiciliary care, gardeners, cleaners and shopping services.
Sheltered accommodation that is private may also be in the form of an elderly community where housing is designed especially for a retired person or couple to move into the area to spend time with other people of the same age. There might be leisure facilities on site, there might be clubs, salons, shops – some elderly communities are incredibly well equipped.
It may be that you are cared for by a family caregiver, in which case respite care may be a good solution. Respite care is available on an ad-hoc basis or on a regular basis based on how much the care-giver wants or needs (depending, of course, on funding). It might just be for a holiday every year, or it might be once a day for an hour, it all depends on the circumstances of those involved. It can help relieve the emotional challenges of caring for the elderly.
Respite care is provided specifically to give the carer a rest whilst ensuring that the client is cared for properly during that break. Sometimes respite care is provided by day care homes where a person is cared for at the care home during set times in the day. For example: you might drop off your loved one at 9AM until 4PM at the care home where they can spend time with others of the same age and enjoy activities and being safely cared for whilst you are able to go and run errands and have some time to yourself.
You won’t be able to get any funding for care from a local authority without a care assessment. A care assessment can also help you understand which types of care are available to you if you are relying solely on funding from the council. A care assessment is also needed to get funding for adjustments in the home that may make staying at home easier. A stairlift for example may ensure that you can continue to access both the bottom and top of your house. Or simpler changes such as rails, ramps and raised toilet seats.
To get a care assessment you need to get in touch with social services at your local council and ask them to arrange a needs or care assessment for you. You can explain to them that you are struggling with basic day to day tasks like getting up and down the stairs, getting dressed or eating. They will arrange an assessment, giving you plenty of notice for when it is. An emergency care assessment can also be arranged if you are severely struggling and require emergency help.
The assessment is totally free and anybody can have an assessment regardless of how much money they have, or their personal circumstances.
If you are unable to arrange the assessment yourself a loved one can arrange it for you as long as you agree to it. If your loved one actively cares for you they are entitled to have a carers assessment.
What A Care Assessment Involves
When the care assessment occurs you will be visited by a professional in health and social care who will come and check on how you are coping on a day to day basis. They look at all aspects of your needs, including your emotional life, your social life, your abilities, your religion if you have one, your culture, any support you have, your physical challenges, risks, overall health, housing and what you want and feel you need. If you have a carer then their opinion will be taken into consideration too.
As well as the visit to your home, the care assessment professional will speak to your GP or health care specialist to look into your needs further.
Their job is to get as much information as possible to ensure you get the help that you need.
After Your Assessment
After your assessment you will be told which help you are eligible for. If you are eligible for help you will get a care plan which details the help you can expect to receive. The care plan you receive is a collaboration with the council and not a forced plan. You will be able to share your preferences and you should have a person listed who you know by name at the council to get in touch with if you need help. The plan will also detail the budget allocated to you based on what you need. Your plan may also include budgeting for home adaptations, care home placement or respite care. You should expect your care plan to be reviewed annually or more often if you need that to be the case.
Financially funding care is complex and it is really important to look into it as early as you can in the process of planning care. A care assessment is important as it is the first step to finding out the kind of senior care funding you are entitled to. However, it is important to look into private funding and your own means, especially if you do have savings and property, and perhaps a private pension and other finances that might affect the kind of care you can afford.
An Independent Financial Advisor is a good choice, particularly an IFA with experience in financing senior care. They will be able to help explain your options to you so that you can make an informed decision about financing the kind of care you want to have in later life. It makes sense to have another family member with you at all discussions concerning you financial affairs and financial future.
Planning Care in Advance
Imagine a situation where something unexpected happened and you needed to make a rushed decision about care. It could mean the wrong care decision is made because you don’t know all your options. It might even mean you are unable to make a decision about your own care because of the medical issue that has occurred. To avoid this happening and ensure that your wishes and the wishes of your family are known in advance, planning future senior care is so important.
Later life can be great, and putting plans in place doesn’t need to be something that makes you sad. Nobody wants to think about getting older but planning your later life means having the peace of mind to enjoy yourself as you are right now, knowing that when the time comes, you know what you want and that your wishes will be fulfilled.
Nobody wants to think about getting older but planning your later life means having the peace of mind to enjoy yourself as you are right now
In particular, exploring the options available to you is vital. It means you can budget, you can properly research the options and you can use the right tools and speak to the right people to make a properly informed decision.
Planning ahead means that you can control the kind of later life that you want, without having to make rushed, emotional decisions that may not be what you want or what your family want long-term.
Speaking About Later Life Care With Your Family
Speaking with your family about later life care is an important part of finding the right care for you. If you are the person looking into care for yourself then, you absolutely should utilise the help and opinions of those who love you the most. Those who you may trust to make important decisions on your behalf in the future.
If you are in the position of caring for a loved one, or you have a parent who may be closer to needing care than before, then you can help them make the right decision by speaking to them about their later life options.
The conversation is difficult to have, because nobody wants to think about someone they love being unable to fend for themselves. When you speak to your family they may not see things in the same way you do. There might be fear, anxiety, and concern about the unknown. However, it is important to have these sensitive conversations before something happens that may prevent a person stating their wishes.
Nobody wants to think about someone they love being unable to fend for themselves
Financially, it is also important everybody understands the plan because the financing of care can be extremely complicated and the more everybody understands how it works and what needs to happen, the better.
To start a good conversation about care, consider the following tips:
Time The Conversation Right
Timing the conversation right is essential with a topic as delicate as senior care. If you try and force the conversation at the wrong time or in the wrong place it may not go well. Allocate a time in private, with no other distractions for the best chance of an open and relaxed conversation.
Keep It Respectful
Don’t go into the conversation to impose your opinions. It is important to stay respectful and respect the opinions of everyone involved in the conversation. All family members, but especially the person potentially requiring senior care, should feel their voice is heard.
Stay Reassuring, But Not Stifling
It is important to understand how everybody feels, even if those feelings are uncomfortable. It is normal to feel afraid for your future as you become more frail and vulnerable; or upset thinking about a parent getting older and less able. Let those feelings out and share them. Reassurance is always good and, of course, there will be an element of comfort in that, but do try to avoid stifling natural emotions and instead, let them out and share them, it will help you feel closer and help you gain a greater understanding of how everyone feels.
The conversation about care is never one that can be completed in a quick conversation. It cannot be tied up neatly or bookmarked. Be patient and be ready to have several conversations over time before a conclusion is reached. It is a priority but it is important enough not to be rushed.
Bring Information To The Table
So that the conversation is not based on misinformation and emotion, it is important to bring sound information to the table. Information from trusted resources and charities, government channels and professionals means that decisions will be based on facts and not on charged emotions and assumptions.
There are plenty of resources available to you to help you get as much information as possible about care and your care options. It is important to speak to family and friends, and to gain an understanding of the experiences of others, but the more factual and concrete information you can gather that is free from emotion, the better.
To help you further your research into getting the right care, here are some useful and important resources to utilise during the next phase of your journey:
Not-for-profit organisation dedicated to live-in care, with lots of information and articles available for you to utilise on the topic.
The UK’s largest charity dedicated to helping the elderly with resources and information on everything from care assessments to going on mobility aided holidays.
Lots of information on all aspects of elderly care including an up to date care calculator that provides estimates of care costs for both residential and live-in care.
This link is to the NHS social care and free support page, but there are lots of additional pages and links that can help you with information on later life care and support.
For family caregivers, Carers UK is an excellent source of information and support.
Your GP And Social Services
Don’t forget your GP and Social Services should have plenty of information for you to get you started in understanding the kind of care you need, and the kind of care and support available to you.
Finding The Right Senior Care Matters
Finding the right senior care matters and the earlier you can begin making your plans, the better. Allocate plenty of time in the beginning to reading and research, so that you have all the relevant information that you need. Further down the line, conversations with those you love and trust the most are incredibly important, as are visits to professionals who can help you with your plan, such as healthcare professionals and experienced Independent Financial Advisors.
Everyone deserves a later life that provides a good quality of life, and the first step is finding the right care and putting plans in place to arrange it should the need arise.
Eventually, you will find that the right option for you becomes apparent, and although it is unlikely anybody will look forward to ageing, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having well considered plans in place.