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Advice for Caregivers

Broaching the topic of a care home or carer for your ageing loved one can be difficult. We understand this. But too many people make life-changing decisions about their housing and care without understanding all the options available. And sadly too often the issue is only approached when something unfortunate occurs ? perhaps a fall, the loss of a spouse, illness or problems with failing memory.

We know how important it is to have open and honest conversations with your loved one, as well as family and friends at the earliest opportunity, which is why we offer advice for caregivers to make it easier. Such conversations can be daunting and distressing, but talking through these sensitive subjects is vital to making the best choices for your loved one?s wellbeing.

It?s good to discuss it early

Getting help early can have a number of advantages, and the quality of life for both the individual and their relatives can be greatly increased. Older people?s health can often deteriorate very gradually over time, and sometimes those closest to the person take a while to realise that additional help is needed. Discussing care options in advance may help your loved one see that they can no longer live independently. On the other hand, an illness or fall can result in severe unexpected consequences, and the person that you are caring for may no longer be able to be involved in decisions.

Finding a suitable home at short notice can be very difficult, and with waiting lists often in operation, you may not be able to secure a room in your home of choice. Discussing care doesn?t always have to involve a care home, and other options such as a retirement home or getting additional home help may be all that will be needed in the medium term. Discussing options may also help identify things which will make life easier for the person being cared for, such as installing a downstairs toilet and bedroom or buying more suitable furniture.

When might additional care be needed?

Despite your best efforts, there may come a time when you and your family members can no longer provide adequate support for your loved one. The point at which your relationship shifts from relative to carer may be the point at which you need to look at other options. Take some time to examine the amount of care that you are currently giving and how much time you can manage to give in the future.

Some general signs that help may be needed include changes in eating habits, missed meals and a loss of appetite, lower standards of personal hygiene, a home that is less clean or tidy than usual, or a change in behaviour. Those with a sudden or dramatic loss of memory may need additional care even more urgently.

Broaching the topic

Preparation is the key. Take some time to do some research, on the Internet or at the local library. Maybe talk to friends or health care professionals. Once you know what you want to say, find a quiet time when you?ll be free to talk without interruption and broach the topic in an informal way. Focus on helping your loved one think about what matters most to them and what they are concerned about. What does your loved one really want in the short and long term? What are their concerns? Listen to their thoughts and show that you?ve heard and understood. Share your feelings too so they can understand your perspective and concerns. Once the dust has settled, maybe arrange to visit a few homes, and take it from there.

Don?t feel guilty

We hear too often that people feel guilty that they are abandoning their loved ones and not fulfilling their responsibilities by making the move into a care home. They tell us they worry that their relative will lose their independence, even if they are already unable to look after themselves. Caregivers sometimes feel they should be able to do it all themselves, and even worry about what others will think about them. While we understand these concerns, it?s really important to remember that you have the best interests of your loved one at heart, and that supporting them through their move to a care home is the kind and responsible thing to do.

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