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Are care homes the only long-term care solution?

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When your elderly relative doesn’t seem to be coping too well in their own home, it’s time to consider your options. Most people tend to assume that a move into residential care is their best option, but in fact, this is not necessarily the case.


Care homes are falling out of favour.

A 2012 survey undertaken by YouGov asked 2000 people about their expectations of old age. More than half of those surveyed anticipated that they would require some form of care as they became older, but an astonishing 99 percent of them wished for an alternative to a place in a care home. Meanwhile, just under half of the respondents were concerned about the cost of care.

Care homes are often seen as institutionalised, with strictly regimented routines. Many older people are reluctant to move away from their familiar surroundings and into one room in a care home, where they will be surrounded by unfamiliar people. But what are the alternatives?

Moving into your home

Some families choose to adapt their own homes so that an elderly relative can move in with them. This can be an excellent way of taking charge of your loved one’s care yourself, but you need to make sure that you have sufficient time to spend on their needs, as well as your own.

A care needs assessment will determine whether you need to make any alterations to your home, such as grab rails in the bathroom and wheelchair-friendly front paths. Anyone can apply for a free care needs assessment from their local social services department, and funds may be available to help with alterations, depending on your financial circumstances.

However, in an age where most people work, moving your loved one into your home is not always the most practical solution, so this may not always be possible.

Sheltered housing and retirement villages

Your loved one may prefer to sell their current home and downsize to a retirement village or sheltered housing complex. These are residential premises designed specifically for older residents, and some sites have a variety of amenities, such as gyms, swimming pools and restaurants, depending on how much you wish to spend.

Apartments and homes are usually small and easy to manage, with an on-site warden who will help out in the event of an emergency. Residents are free to socialise with each other if they wish to do so, but there is no obligation to join in with community events.

However, for sociable older people, who are happy to move from their present homes, these can be an excellent compromise between living alone and entering residential care.

Properties are available to rent or to buy. When buying, make sure you understand the management fee structure, as contributions vary, with some retirement villages requiring significant monthly payments. Each development is different, so visit a few before making a choice, and read the fine print carefully, so you know exactly what to expect.

What our customers say

“It is reassuring to know that my father is being cared for by someone who understands his needs and his dementia symptoms.”

Patricia, Norwich

Care at home

A care needs assessment will identify whether your loved one is entitled to help in their own home. Your relative’s social services department will assess how well they are coping and what, if any, support is recommended.

A care plan is then drawn up, detailing what financial assistance is available to spend on carers, who will call into the home and undertake some household duties, such as cleaning and preparing hot meals.

Carers can be provided by your loved one’s local council, or you may choose to hire private help. This can be a good way of enabling your relative to remain in their own home, but it doesn’t provide reassurance during the nights, and carers may have limited time to spend with your loved one.

Live-in Care

An increasingly popular choice these days is the live-in care model, which is based on supplying high-quality elderly care in the person’s own home.

Rather than your loved one having to go through all their possessions, attempting to downsize their life in order to fit everything into a smaller home, or even one room in a care home, there is no need to part with anything at all.

The carer moves into your loved one’s home, living as part of the family, but assisting in any way that helps your relative to enjoy life to the full.

Live in care encompasses everything from simple companion care through to dementia care, which involves more complex tasks such as help with bathing, dressing and personal hygiene. Companion carers are on hand for a cup of tea and a chat, which can help to dispel the acute loneliness that afflicts so many older people living alone.

The carer will help with household chores, accompany your loved one on shopping trips, and make sure that your relative enjoys plenty of fresh air and exercise, along with regular, healthy meals.

For people with conditions such as dementia, a live-in carer enables them to enjoy an independent lifestyle on their own terms, aided by the caregiver, who will perform a variety of tasks to ensure the safety and comfort of your loved one.

One of the big advantages of a live-in carer in these instances is the familiarity of the surroundings for your loved one, who may become confused in new surroundings.

Care in the home can be temporary, such as providing respite care for older people recovering from illness or surgery, or long-term, where the care adapts over time, to take into account the changing needs of your loved one.