Caring for your parent(s) in old age may be one of the most challenging, complex and emotional tasks you ever have to undertake.
Not only are you trying to balance their needs against yours and your own family’s, you’re also coming to terms with a 180-degree role reversal – dubbed ‘parentification’ – between the elderly parent and child.
Yet with the population increasingly ageing – one in 12 people will be aged over 80 by 2039, with the number of centenarians projected to rise nearly six-fold to 83,000 – it’s a reality many of us are likely to face up to.
It’s a duty junior health minister, David Mowat, believes should reflect treatment of our own children.
“We need to start thinking as a society about how we deal with care of our own parents,” he recently told MPs on the local government select committee.
“One of the things that has struck me as I’ve been doing this role is that nobody ever questions the fact that we look after our children, that’s just obvious. Nobody ever says it is a caring responsibility, it’s just what you do.
“I think some of that logic and some of way we think about that, in terms of the sort of volume of numbers that we are seeing coming down the track, will have to impinge on the way we start thinking about how we look after our parents.
“In a way, it is a responsibility, in terms of our life cycle, that is similar.”
So at a time when councils are warning that the UK social care system is in “grave danger of falling apart” due to underfunding, what are your options should you find yourself in this predicament?
Caring for an elderly parent in their own home
If a line of support means your elderly parent can remain in their own space, in surroundings they recognise, home help may well be the best option.
The type of help available, however, will vary across local authorities, states the NHS. While it usually takes the form of homecare worker visits in the morning and evening, the extent to which care is given depends on your relative’s mobility and how easily they perform personal care tasks, such as getting up, getting dressed and cooking a meal.
You can find at more on the NHS website.
Moving your parent in with you
Alternatively, if you’re considering caring for them yourself, you might want to take into consideration the points raised by charity Carers UK.
This is not an option for many – but if it’s a viable solution for your family, ensure you consider all aspects before making the move.
For example, do you have the space without putting a strain on your living conditions? Moving an elderly parent in could cause tension if you need to adapt a ground floor room or provide access to specific equipment, mobility or otherwise.
One point to note is moving your relative in won’t affect your eligibility for support. You’re still entitled to a carer’s assessment and any financial backing and benefits that may arise as a result.
Find out more at www.gov.uk/carers-allowance, where you’ll find information covering benefits such as Carer's Allowance, Carer's Credits and Community Care Grants.
Moving your parent into a care home
It’s true you can only be a good carer to your parent if you are fit and well enough to do so. So if that’s no longer the case, and looking after your parent at home is proving overwhelming, you might want to consider placing them into a care home.
Its then up to you to look for the one that best suits your parent’s needs: do they need nursing care or standard personal care? What can they offer the residents?
Whether you’re looking at privately owned homes or those run by charities, your best bet is to consult the Quality Care Commission website where you can read advice, search a directory and swot up on inspection reports.
Alternatively, sheltered housing (smaller, easy-to-manage homes, where quite often a 24-hour warden lives on site) might appeal. Find out more at www.ageuk.org.uk/home-and-care/thinking-about-your-options/sheltered-housing/
Have you had experience in caring for an elderly parent? Tell us about your journey in the Comments section below