When is a care home right for Mum?

If there is one question care professional gets asked more often than any other question when a family visits a care home for the first time, it is: ‘When is a care home right for mum?’ or ‘How will I know it is the right time for my Dad to move into a care home?’

Of course there is no simple answer to this highly complicated and highly personal question, every family and every situation is different. So the answer will generally be something along the lines of: ‘It is best to move Mum into a care home when she will benefit more from being in a care home than she will from any other possible care solution’.

This may sound dismissive or flippant. In fact it is quite the reverse! Because there is so much variation in what will work for an individual, there can never be a one size fits all approach. As every individual and every family is different, so too is the right time to consider any significant change – including when to move into a care home. Of course a good and supporting professional would never leave it there without giving further support and guidance. So here are some things you should consider when thinking about residential care:

What has caused you to start thinking about increasing Mum’s care?

This is a crucial element. If Mum is still doing really well, has plenty of social interaction, enjoys daily visitors from family and friends, is completely safe and only needs help with some simple daily tasks, then moving her into a spare room or annex may be the best option. This can be done with or without the assistance of a Domiciliary Carer who can support her with some of the personal care.

However, if she is at a high risk of falls, if she is in danger of absconding or of setting fire to the house, needs help to use the toilet, needs assistance with all meals, cannot walk, needs turning at night to avoid bed sores, or is in need of constant support you may find that your good intentions may not be enough to provide the care she needs.

In the latter case, the support she needs may be too great for you to deliver.  Even if you really want to do it. In other cases the actual physical requirement is within your capability but it is too difficult emotionally.

Think about both elements because they will both have an impact on you and your other family members. When you have thought it through you may feel that you can manage and you want to do it but be careful to really consider what you will be taking on.

What does Mum think about the options?

There are currently hundreds of thousands of people living in residential care.  Yet only a really small proportion of them would have chosen to move into a care home if there was a viable alternative open to them. Many people just had to accept it as the inevitable next step in their journey but if they were honest most current care home residents would have avoided it if they possibly could. Of course many people when they do actually move into a care home find it was much better than they were expecting and actually enjoy it.

Mum’s opinion counts

It is vital that older people play a key part of the decision process when considering the next stage in their journey. It is their journey after all! But you must also consider yourself and the rest of the family. Supporting an elderly person with developing care needs can be hard work. Some individuals and families thrive on it and there are many cases where the act of caring for a loved one turns out to be a genuine honour and privilege, but of course there are other examples where families simply could not cope.

Your Mum’s opinion is really important and must be given the respect that it deserves.  But it is not the only one that counts; so does yours and your families’!

The impact of caring for an elderly relative

Depending on the type and level of care that they need, caring for a loved one could have a number of impacts:

  • You may not get much sleep, getting up in the middle of the night to support a loved one.  It can be really exhausting!
  • You may need to sacrifice or delay your career; it is hard to dedicate to your job as well as all of you other commitments. When caring for a family member often an individual’s career is one of the first thing that gets sacrificed.

A decision for the whole family

There will be an impact on your other relationships, including:

  • Your spouse or partner, you no longer get the time to spend with each other
  • Your children and how much time you can spend with them
  • Friendships and your ability to spend time socialising and engaging in hobbies and your other parental relationships; looking after your parents makes it hard to spend time with your in-laws and vice versa
  • You will have less time to spend with your wider family – brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles etc.
  • Holidays – often the need for 24 hour support stops families from being able to get away.  In some cases for several years. And don’t necessarily expect your brother or sister to step up and do their bit when you need them. Although many families are happy for you to make the sacrifice; others may not want to or are not able to do the same.

But it may be right for you

There is no doubt that supporting a relative and caring for them as they get older can be challenging from an emotional and physical perspective. But just because it is hard and you have to make sacrifices does not mean that you should not do it.

Every family and everybody is different.  This care and support may be a fabulous part of your own personal life and your family’s journey. It has been for many in the past and it will be for many people in the future.

Either way it is best to know what you may be potentially taking on.  You need to know if it is going to work for you and your family.  It is vital that you make your decision from a position of understanding.  With your eyes open knowing what to expect!

If you want to know more how we can support your loved one who lives with dementia, why not visit your local Greensleeves Care home.