Choosing the right care option – how to decide

When you believe that your elderly relative is struggling to cope in their own home, it can be a worrying time. You’ll need to consider the various options on offer, to establish the best and most appropriate solution that guarantees a good sense of wellbeing for them and peace of mind for yourself.

Knowing all the options available to you allows you to discuss them with your loved one, and to work out a plan of action that suits everyone.

Remaining at home

Care at home makes it easier than ever before for an elderly relative to continue to enjoy their current lifestyle with the minimum of disruption.

Elderly care at home services can be provided by your loved one’s local authority or can be arranged on a private basis, depending on the circumstances. Carers may visit your loved one once or twice a week, or daily, providing a range of services, such as help with housework and cooking.

Alternatively, private live-in care provides your loved one with a dedicated carer who is on hand 24/7, providing support wherever needed, for a complete support package.

Live-in carers can usually provide anything from simple companion care through to the more complex demands of dementia care, where personal tasks, such as help with washing, dressing and personal hygiene are required.

Care in the home is not disruptive, as there is no need to downsize possessions or for your elderly relative to become accustomed to new surroundings, which many elderly people find difficult, particularly if they are experiencing memory problems.

You may need to consider whether some adaptations should be made to the home, such as installing grab rails in bathrooms, or a stairlift, for example.

Moving in with family

This used to be a popular option for elderly care, but with the majority of adults of working age now in employment, opening up your own home to an elderly relative is not always possible or practical.

If you do decide to go down this route, make sure that everyone understands the house rules to avoid conflict. Your relative will need a room of their own to furnish as they wish, and you may need to make some structural alterations to your home, in order to make it safe for an elderly person, such as installing bathing aids and grab rails in the bathroom.

Some families opt to sell both homes and move into more substantial accommodation which suits all parties. If you are considering this, you need to do plenty of research into the financial implications for all of you.

There may be inheritance tax implications further down the line, and if your loved one needs to move into residential care at some point in the future, shared ownership of your property may have an impact on any financial assistance that your relative will be entitled to.

Sheltered housing

Sheltered housing complexes offer your elderly relative the opportunity to live a reasonably independent lifestyle, but with the knowledge that there is a warden on hand in the event of an emergency.

Complexes usually consist of up to 40 separate residences, in the form of flats or houses, with some communal areas, such as a garden, laundry and a lounge for socialising. Some complexes also offer guest suites for relatives and visitors to stay overnight. There is usually an on-site warden who is responsible for general maintenance, and all residences are equipped with a call button in case of a fall or other problem.

Sheltered housing properties may be available to buy or to rent, and most local councils operate schemes that provide financial assistance to those who need it, often in purpose-built blocks. However, any care duties need to be outsourced, as these are not provided by sheltered housing schemes.

Retirement villages

With a growing ageing population, more and more retirement villages are springing up, offering an alternative option for elderly people wishing to relocate from their current homes.

Usually planned by large developers, retirement complexes provide up to 100 homes, in the form of apartments and houses, in a luxurious setting, with landscaped grounds and plenty of communal areas for socialising and events. The emphasis tends to be on luxury living, with on-site hairdressers, spas and swimming pools in many cases.

There is no social funding for retirement village properties, so they are only available to those with sufficient funds. In addition to the initial purchase price of a property in a retirement complex, there are monthly fees to be paid for maintenance and facilities, which can be expensive, so it’s vital to budget carefully at the outset.

As with sheltered housing, there are no on-site medical facilities, so they are not usually suitable for those with complex care needs.

Care homes

Residential care homes require an elderly person to move into a room, or sometimes a suite, in a dedicated building, and daily care is provided for all residents, along with meals and a programme of social events and activities.

Care homes are aimed at elderly people who are unable to live independently in their own homes but are not in need of nursing care. Local authority funding may be available, depending on your loved one’s financial circumstances and the care home itself.

Nursing homes

Nursing homes are intended for elderly people who require more complex care than a care home resident. In addition to the usual staff, at least one registered nurse is always on hand to deal with emergencies and provide in-depth nursing care to the residents.

Although similar to care homes, they do not usually offer the same resources, such as social events, due to the complex needs of residents.

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Paying for care

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