Growing old is a fact of life. There is plenty we can do to slow down the effects of time, but it will get us in the end. We may recall a golden age when everyone grew old in the bosom of their families, but changing social patterns mean that is no longer an option for many. What alternatives are there when someone is not coping very well?
Talk Much, Talk Soon
Don’t wait for a crisis to erupt before you begin to talk about the issue. The sooner families discuss the options—even long before there is any obvious need—the better equipped they are to make the right decisions when the time comes.
Don’t be alarmed if the subject of death comes up—that too is inevitable. Take the opportunity to look at the mortuary services that are available and form an outline of what would be best.
Staying at Home
The least disruptive possibility is to remain at home. This has obvious attractions for someone who is comfortable and likes the surroundings, neighbors, and facilities. However for the long term you need to ask how realistic it will be when mobility is reduced.
From a financial point of view, it involves finding sufficient resources to pay for care and modifications to the home, as there will be no release of capital to fund these.
Moving in with Family
This option often seems the right one, but needs to be considered carefully. The well-being of the family, as well as the older person, has to be taken into account.
Remember that work pressures can involve families having to move to new locations, sometimes at short notice.
For those who need only minor support but find running their home a burden, or who want more social contact, ‘independent living’ refers to arrangements where older people move into a specially built complex. They have their own self-contained property, usually an apartment.
Services are provided by a central management. Social events are usually organized, and sometimes there are restaurants and clubhouses.
If someone needs more than occasional support, assisted living (or residential care) provides a room or suite in a facility with all-day access to help with everyday requirements, such as washing, dressing, and eating.
There is the assurance of 24-hour support from staff onsite. Meals are provided and usually eaten in a communal dining room. Social activities are regularly arranged.
A nursing home provides the highest level of care, with fully trained nurses on duty day and night. Homes can deal with very high levels of dependency. Some will have specialized units to care for dementia sufferers. Most will offer temporary as well as permanent places.
A Tough Decision
Life is full of difficult decisions, and what to do when someone can no longer maintain a cherished independence is one of the hardest. Getting all the chips on the table—emotional, financial, practical—can begin a process where in the end the right decision can be confidently arrived at.
Sophia Turnbull works as a care assistant for the elderly. Over the few years that she has worked at the facility she had gained a wealth of knowledge. Her articles share some of this information in an easy to understand manner.