Archive for April, 2013

Top Tips for Finding Care Fast for Your Elderly Relative

Unfortunately it is usually a crisis that forces older people into the care system when they or the person who supports them becomes ill or has an accident. Coming face-to-face with the care system for the first time, particularly if your elderly loved one’s care needs are urgent, can feel daunting to you and your elderly relative.

Find out what your elderly relative wants

Try and keep calm, make yourself a cup of tea or coffee. Don’t worry they are not going anywhere while you drink it! Now think about what is important to your elderly relative as this will help guide you in the right direction and stop you running round like a headless chicken.

Do they want to remain in their own home or want or need to move into a care home? It is obviously best to ask your relative but if this is not possible try and put yourself in their shoes. How do you think they would answer you if they could?

Help with hospital dischargeMC900440345-1

Now much as I want to say “Don’t let hospital staff put pressure on you” hospital beds are in extremely short supply, so if your elderly relative has been considered ready for discharge think about the boot being on the other foot with them urgently needing a hospital bed. You need to support your relative to leave hospital as soon as they can but not until you have firm arrangements in place for future care.

So lets go.

  • Confirm whether the NHS, Social Services or your loved one is responsible for funding their care.
  • If the person is being discharged from hospital into a care or nursing home this is a life changing decision. Think about how long it took you to find the right property when you moved! The same attention needs to be given to choosing the right home to your elderly relative. Whilst not ideal, you may have to move them to a home that has a vacancy while you find one that is just right for them.
  • Live in care offers a good alternative for people who need 24 hour care but want to remain living at home. However it does take time to find the right care/s and a short-term admission to a care home will allow time for this.
  • Going straight home from hospital can be too big a step if your relative has been in hospital for a while. Consider moving into a care home on a short-term basis for convalescence or further rehab. This will give you time to plan the right home care support.
  • Always arrange admission to a care home on a month’s trial basis to make sure the ‘fit’ is right.
  • Moving into a care home can be short, medium (for convalescence or to give carers a break) or long term.

With pressure on your time, arranging urgent care can seem quite burdensome. You may prefer to get help from consultants like Relative Matters to undertake the intensive research for you. We can support you every step of the way, explain the issues and help you make the right decisions for your elderly loved one.

Caring for Ageing Parents?

If you are providing care and support to one or both of your parents you are not alone. Three in five people in the UK will become carers at some time in their lives and it has been calculated that the average woman spends as many or more years caring for one or both of her parents as she did caring for her children.

Our generation is sometimes referred to as the ‘sandwich generation’ because we can feel like the filling in the middle between our parents on one side and our adult children and grandchildren on the other. The increasing number of us who are single also lack a partner to share their fears, frustrations and the celebrations of caring for parents on a day to day basis and face the difficulty of balancing caring for ageing parents and helping our adult children and grandchildren whilst working or running a business, without the practical support of a partner.MC900441748

Furthermore, many of us take on the additional demands of caring at a time when our priorities and energy levels are changing following divorce or the loss of our husband or partner.

Brothers and sisters, in-laws and grandchildren each have their own perception of how much time and responsibility should be given to supporting parents and will be carrying varying amounts of baggage from their parent – child relationship. This as well as the distance family members live apart and other commitments they may have, mean that caring for elderly parents often falls on one person’s shoulders, usually a daughters.

Looking after elderly parents can be a satisfying though difficult experience. We love our parents, and want to help as they grow frail and less able to do things for themselves. At this stage of their lives, it is our last chance to show our love and to help them as they once helped us when we were children. This reversal of the child and parent roles isn’t always easy, however much we love our parents.

It is easy to become irritated by our mother and or father’s preoccupation with their health and frustration about their increasing dependence and we need to remember that their world is shrinking to memories of the past and their current reality. They are beginning to close down, emotionally as well as physically, and have a need to look back, reflect on and evaluate their life.

If you think about it, we are all in Gods waiting room; it’s just that our parents are a bit nearer the front of the queue than we are. Our role is to be there to support them with their increasing sense of isolation and aloneness which can be frightening for them, especially if they are unhappy about the way their life has turned out.

What you have to do is find your own way of balancing your physical and emotional needs and ability to cope, with the demands of your ageing parents and you need not do this alone. There are carers support groups, on-line forums and friends you can talk to as well as getting practical help for your elderly parent/s. And if I can help in any way you can contact me at chris@relativematters.org

 

Back Scratcher & Shoe Horn

My late father, in common with many older people, had difficulty putting on his shoes and slippers. He also had numerous moles on his back, which itched incessantly so I was pleased to find this long shoehorn with a backscratcher at the other end.

back-scratcher

It was a snip at under £3 and Dad always said it was the most useful item he ever had and used it on a daily basis.

Having quality of life with dementia

How do you improve the quality of life for a loved one with dementia? Beth Britton, author of D4Dementia, offers advice as an ‘expert by experience’ after her father’s 19 years of living with the disease.

When my dad was diagnosed with vascular dementia we didn’t have access to memory clinics, there were no pills he could take to improve his symptoms (only aspirin to try and halt the tide of mini-strokes), and we were basically told to go away, find him a care home and accept that he had a terminal illness.

As a family we knew very little about dementia back then, but over the years we learnt with dad and the many people living with dementia that we were privileged to meet. My only wish is that I had known at the beginning of dad’s dementia what I knew by the end of it (he passed away in April 2012); namely that dementia doesn’t mean having no quality of life, and that as a family there is so much you can do to ensure that each day is the very best it can be for your loved one.

The first and most important thing to stress is that everyone is an individual, so what works for one person won’t work for another. True quality of life is only achieved through personalisation, therefore it is vital that everything you help someone with dementia to do, achieve or enjoy is what they have or would choose for themselves.

Alongside personalisation has to be kindness, compassion and love, simply because they are the foundations of human life. Sometimes families can feel that the symptoms dementia produces change their loved one to such an extent that they can no longer see the person behind the disease, but it is vital to remember (even in very challenging times) that it is the dementia, not the person, driving those symptoms.

Arguably the greatest gifts you can give someone with dementia are your time, patience, understanding, a listening (non-judgemental) ear when it is needed, a calm voice and a soothing touch or hug that says you care. No one wants to feel ignored, abandoned, frightened or trapped – dementia can cause all of those feelings inside the person living with it, but a relative or friend who understands that can provide the ultimate medicine.

From a practical point of view, some of the things dad and I enjoyed the most together while he was living with dementia are listed below.

Hopefully they will give you some inspiration as you strive to give your loved one the best quality of life possible.Garden

  • Going out: Whether in the garden or further afield, getting outside allows you to experience nature first hand and get away from the feeling of being locked in a building, shut away from life as we know it.
  • Sharing meals: It seems obvious to say it, but eating together is a way of combining the basic need we all have to feed our bodies with the joy of sharing foods that bring us pleasure. This of course extends to having copious cups of tea too!
  • Entertaining each other: Music was my father’s great love, and we had numerous CD’s representing all of his favourite artists and genres. They were played constantly (rather than having TV blaring out), and I printed lyrics so we could sing together (the lyrics were mostly for me – dad knew all of the words off by heart and would still sing even when he couldn’t talk very much).
  • Following sports: Dad enjoyed many sports, including cricket, rugby and horse racing, but football was his favourite, so we always chatted about our team’s results, looked at newspaper articles, listened to commentary on the radio together or watched matches on TV, often reminiscing about how much we missed players of previous eras (and the results they used to produce!).
  • Having pamper sessions: Everything from a manicure or hand massage, though to a nice shave or hair cut – practical tasks can give you, as a relative, purpose and a sense of achievement. For the person with dementia, they represent quality time with you and that lovely feeling of being pampered that many of us pay a fortune for at a salon.
  • Getting books and photos out: When dad could no longer read books, we read to him, and when that was too sleep-inducing, we would look at photos and talk about the people, places and things that were familiar to him.

For more information, tips and advice on different aspects of dementia care, please visit: http://d4dementia.blogspot.co.uk/

About the author: Beth Britton is a campaigner and care consultant, writer and blogger specialising in issues affecting older people, health and social care and specifically dementia. You can find out more about Beth here: http://www.bethbritton.com/

 

All Change For The NHS

Do you realise what a momentous change takes place today, 1st April?  Our beloved NHS, as we know it, will be abolished, just short of its 65th birthday. The Health and Social Care Act comes into force with serious consequences for us all, especially older people.

Last year I watched with unease at the health and social care bill during its turbulent passage through parliament and became increasingly concerned about its affect on older people.

Unfortunately very few of us understand its implications and  it will affect us all more than any legislation passed in our lifetimes. It is the final stage in the dismantling of the NHS, a process that began around 25 years ago without most of us realising what was happening. Law pic

The Government’s case for change is largely based on the assumption that the NHS is no longer affordable, particularly in the current financial climate, and that it needs to be modernised. I believe this assumption is false. Of course things have to change but research overwhelmingly shows that the NHS performs well in comparison to other healthcare systems internationally. It is also cost-effective and highly valued by patients.

Key changes in the NHS

  • From 1st April, Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and strategic health authorities will be disbanded.
  • In their place Clinical Commissioning Groups comprising of local GPs among others, will control about £60 billion of the NHS budget and commission local services.
  • A new body, NHS England will oversee the NHS
  • Responsibility for public health, will transfer to local authorities who will take the lead for improving the health of their local communities.
  • Commissioning will take place through competitive tendering and NHS contracts will be opened to the private and voluntary sectors.
  • There will be huge profits to be made for private healthcare companies who can’t wait to get their hands on our NHS.

The government claims private providers will improve standards through competition and choice. However experience of the NHS getting into bed with the private sector, whether through private finance initiatives (PFI) cleaning contracts in hospitals or the takeover of the GP out of hours service – has been disastrous so far. Privatisation has driven up costs and produced worse results.

Competitive tendering fragments healthcare. Older patients often have several chronic conditions. In future things like eye screening and dietary advice could be provided separately by different providers, making it confusing for the older person and more difficult for their GP to coordinate.

The government consistently claims the NHS budget is protected while in reality, it is being forced to make cuts under the guise of efficiency savings. Across the country, accident and emergency departments and other services are being closed and thousands of jobs are being lost. Older patients with chronic and complex diseases will continue to lose services essential for their care and receive insufficient and poor quality care on hospital wards.  As a result of these changes, people will die.

My heart sinks when I think about the impact of the changes on older people I know and love. Local campaigns are joining up to fight back and I will be joining them. The Government and others with a vested interest may think the fight is over, but the battle to keep our NHS has only just begun, so watch this space!