16 December 2020

Tips on how to care for ageing parents at home

daughter and ageing parent

When it comes to the time that a parent needs day-to-day assistance, setting them up at a care home isn’t always the preferred option. Quite naturally, many would much prefer to stay at home or move in with their families. As a result, lots of people have decided to take the step to live with an ageing parent. This is a big responsibility but a lovely idea. This article offers some tips for how to make a success of it, from creating a safe home to seeking professional help when needed.

Make sure your whole household agrees to changes

Kathy, from the ageing resource When They Get Older, spoke to us about her advice for caring for ageing parents at home and shared that her top tip is to make sure the whole household understands that changes will be coming:

“Moving a parent in with you is a hugely challenging thing to do. Many of us will try very hard to avoid it – and that includes me! But if you decide this is the best move, then the most important piece of advice I would give is to talk to everyone in the household and get agreement to changes. Everything from giving up bedrooms to who controls the remote will be up for debate. And you’ll know your parent best – are they expecting to be totally integrated into the family home on their terms, or do they need as much space and independence as possible? And how can any children at home be enabled to get on with their lives as much as they can? ‘Managing expectations’ is a great way to address conflict before it arises.”

Watch your parent’s wellbeing closely

daughter caring for parent

If you are in a position to look after your ageing parent, that is a wonderful and generous thing. If their health is relatively stable at the present you still must remember to watch their wellbeing closely for any changes. It’s important to be observant and track anything that might become an issue. This way you can get a head start on getting them any medical or professional help they need.

There may come a time when you will need to bring in a professional live-in carer to look after them. This can be a difficult transition, but care guidance experts Super Carers shares the following advice:

“By the time a family is considering care support for their older parents, they have probably already been providing care of some kind. Considering having professionals help is just formalising what has already been taking place. Looking at professional care is a difficult shift to come to terms with, but it should be one that benefits everybody involved.”

Kathy from When They Get Older shared with us the importance of getting help when you need it, which will make things easier for you and might become more appropriate for your parent: “If your parent needs personal help, then getting external carer support is a really good idea if it’s possible. Your parent may be embarrassed if you’re giving personal care, and not all of us are designed to be good carers in the physical sense. Take a look at the various care agency directories available and the Care Quality Commission site (or local equivalent) for ratings and reviews of paid-for carers available near you.”

Make your home accessible

A big part of looking after a parent at home is making sure the living environment is safe and accessible. Even if your parent is perfectly mobile now, in a few years that may change due to age or an accident. So, it’s important to think ahead and take steps to make sure they can move around the home with confidence and ease. One of the best ways of doing this is by choosing to install stairlifts, eliminating one of the major causes of accidents in the home. You can also set up walk-in showers, handrails, ramps outside and a whole host of other accessible features.

Try to keep your parent active and engaged in family life

older woman walking dog in a field

Even if your parent is living with you at home, there is a risk of them becoming isolated from the outside world, un-engaged and inactive. This can have a big impact on mental and physical health so try to do what you can to encourage them. This can involve inviting them on family walks, encouraging them to visit a local park, helping them participate in hobbies and get to social events, religious gatherings, and clubs.

It’s also a good idea to keep them engaged in family life by doing your food shopping together and making sure you eat together. If your parent lives in an annexe, by simply arranging for them to come over to the main house for dinner each night, you can get them up and interacting with the family.

Encourage their independence

While you will certainly want to help your parent when needed, you will want to make sure that you don’t do everything for them. Helping them stay independent where possible is key and this was the top piece of advice from the team at Right at Home, a home care assistance provider:

“When caring for a loved one, it is natural to feel the need to do tasks for them. For example, make them a cup of tea, do the shopping for them. Whilst it’s always nice to help, it’s also really important that your loved one is encouraged to maintain as much independence as possible. Continuing to carry out as many daily activities, hobbies and interests as possible is a fantastic way to maintain cognitive stimulation, mobility and self-esteem. 

Introduce them to safe transport options

At a certain point, it might no longer be appropriate for your parent to continue driving so it’s important to introduce them to safe transport options. The loss of independence that losing driving privileges introduces can be tough but there are ways that they can get where they need to go and even be independent if it’s safe.

Let them know where the local bus stops are and how they can get to town or the supermarket, introduce them to apps like Uber, and if they are new to your area, make sure they know where they can easily find a taxi. Also, be prepared to drive them yourself if they are not confident going out alone – you can always plan with them to run errands at the same time so it’s more convenient.

Look after yourself

couple outside walking

It’s important that the carer themselves isn’t forgotten in this situation. Caring for another individual is a difficult and taxing process so if you going to be doing so, make sure that you find time to look after your own wellbeing as well. Caring for a parent, working a job, and other life commitments can be overwhelming so make sure you take a break now and then. Pampering yourself on occasion and getting others to step in while you are away is nothing to be ashamed of and will mean that you can return to your caring duties refreshed.

One option you should consider is respite care. This is when a temporary care professional comes to your home to look after your parent for a short period so that you can go away for a day, weekend, or longer holiday. The previously mentioned home care assistance provider Right at Home offers this service and explain how it can help:

“Respite care is temporary care that is planned as one-off or regular visits. This may be arranged to cover a permanent care giver’s time off or simply extra support as and when you or your family caregiver needs it. Caring for a loved one can be challenging at times, which is why taking time for yourself is essential. Respite care will ensure you have time to recharge and de-stress. It will allow you to stay connected with friends and keep up with your own hobbies. This in return can support to relieve any feelings of frustration and exhaustion, allowing you to maintain a more positive relationship with the family member you care for.”

Seek financial help if needed

When it comes to caring for an ageing parent, there is also the financial burden to consider. Keeping your finances in order and managing budgets well will be key but even then, you should seek support if needed. There are funding resources available that come in many forms such as benefits and carer’s allowances. There are also charities such as Carers Trust which works for unpaid carers to get the financial aid they need. Visit their help page for a list of financial resources, from grants and discounts available to instructions on how to apply. The life of a carer isn’t easy so make sure you get the help you require.

How to care for an ageing parent at home

  • Make sure your whole household agrees to changes
  • Watch your parent’s wellbeing closely
  • Make your home accessible
  • Try to keep your parent active and engaged in family life
  • Encourage their independence
  • Introduce them to safe transport options
  • Look after yourself
  • Seek financial help if needed

We hope the above tips have been helpful. Choosing to care for a parent is truly a lovely idea and if you are able to do so it can be a great option for all involved. Just remember to not go it alone and utilise the help of others so you and your parent will have the support they need.

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