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How will my loved one's caregivers communicate with me?

When an elderly loved one seems to be struggling to cope in their own home, knowing how to react can be difficult. When this happens, it is a stressful time for everyone concerned, but particularly for your loved one, they may be frightened and confused about their health and what the future holds.

Assessing needs

The first step when you suspect that your elderly relative isn’t coping well alone is to arrange for a needs assessment from their local authority. Contact their local social services department to arrange the needs assessment, which may be carried out by the department, or conducted by an outsourced organisation.

The assessment will look at all areas of your relative’s lifestyle, thoroughly checking through their home to see where changes and improvements could help. Following the evaluation, the local authority will let you know whether your loved one qualifies for help within the home. Care can be arranged directly with the social services department or an alternative method. Your loved one may prefer to accept direct payments instead, enabling them to select a caregiver of their choosing.

Finding the right carer

Care at home comes in many different forms, from occasional visits from a companion care assistant, through to 24/7 assistance from a dedicated dementia care worker. You and your loved one may choose to find a carer through a specialist such as Elder. References will be checked, DBS checks undertaken and you will be provided with help and advice regarding tax and National Insurance payments. Alternatively, you may decide to go it alone, advertising the position, undertaking interviews and checking up on references yourselves.

Whichever route you choose, finding someone who shares similar values to your loved one is essential. Your relative and their caregiver will be spending a great deal of time in each other’s company, so an excellent working relationship is the key to success.

Trust is a requirement on both sides

A key element in forging an excellent working relationship with your loved one’s carer is trust. You need to have complete assurance that the caregiver has the best interests of your relative at heart. Having a trusting relationship allows the carer to undertake their duties in the way that they see fit. But of course, trust is a two-way street, and the carer needs to be sure that you will allow them to form a trustful relationship with your loved one.

Care at home is a balancing act and one that can be difficult to get right. But the crucial thing to keep in mind is how your loved one is feeling about the arrangement. When your loved one seems happy and relaxed in the company of their carer, this is an opportunity for you to take a step back let go of some elements of control.

Regularly appearing during the carer’s hours of work may create the impression that you lack trust in the carer. If you feel that things should be done in a certain way, try creating a handbook or manual that the carer can refer to for assistance.

Colin and Dulcie’s story

Dulcie is 102-years-old and lives with her son Colin, his wife Mary, and her Carer Sarah. She has dementia and has had full-time live-in care for over two years.

We talk to the family about the challenges of finding the right care solution for a fiercely independent woman - and how the positive benefits of live-in care with Sarah has transformed all of their lives.

Establish clear communication channels

If you are paying for or contributing towards your loved one’s home care, then you may have a level of expectation as to how things should be done. Remember that the carer is there to help and assist your loved one, and they may have a different way of doing things. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still get along comfortably together.

The fact that the loved one is your relative will, of course, make you an interested party. Any professional caregiver will understand that you need to be kept up to date with news and information about your relative. It’s worth mentioning your communication expectations at the interview stage, so that everyone knows what is expected of them, leaving no unpleasant surprises further down the line.

Most people trained in elderly care understand that relatives are concerned about their ageing loved one. Carers are aware that relevant parties will be expected to be kept up to date with how they are getting on. Try and layout suggestions for keeping in contact at an early stage in the arrangement, and make a point of keeping in touch with the carer regularly - perhaps with a weekly phone call, for example.

Make sure that the caregiver has a variety of contact methods for getting in touch, particularly in the case of an emergency. The carer should have access to your email address, physical address and telephone numbers, including emergency contact numbers for other family members. Having these clear methods of contact with the carer when necessary, will allow for positive outcomes for everyone concerned.

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