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Planning Retirement Online

Guide to living with ill health in later life

Lady on stairliftPart 5 - Independent Living.

One of our main worries about ill health is that we will become very dependent on others. We want to be able to make choices for ourselves and do thing for ourselves. Usually we want to stay at home in reasonable comfort as long as we feel safe and are not isolated or vulnerable. Thankfully nowadays the emphasis is very much on helping people who are ill or disabled to live as independently as possible.

Staying at Home: making daily life easier

Independent Living Aids

The Disability Living Foundation (DLF) has an excellent website Living Made Easy  which offers impartial advice and information about daily living equipment, disability living aids, disability products and equipment, and other aspects of independent living. You can’t buy from the site but you will get a list of suppliers. Some products don’t cost much yet can significantly ease your day to day living. They cover aids for every room in the home, personal care items, clothing, day to day tasks, communication, mobility, safety and security and leisure products. It is very important to seek advice and support before you spend a lot of money on larger disability aids for two reasons: You may be entitled to financial help (see below) and it is important to ensure that the item specifically suits your medical condition.

Guide to Ill Health - links

The Living Aids and Making Later Life Easier pages.

Support with Personal Care and Everyday Tasks

Despite the availability of aids, some conditions make it increasingly difficult for us to undertake everyday tasks such as getting up, showering and dressing in the morning, doing our own shopping, cooking, cleaning and household tasks, or even getting out and about. You may have a spouse or partner, or family member who provides you with care. There is much more recognition of the importance of the carer role now. Jeanne Davis describes the ups and downs and her personal experience as a carer in Beyond the Headlines.

If you think you might need (more) help, there are private, voluntary and charitable care agencies that will provide someone to come in for a specified time either each day or to suit you. All care agencies are regulated by the Care Quality Commission so you can check out the standards of the agency, but personal recommendations can help. Some questions to think about are:

  • Who will assess your needs?
  • What experience and qualifications do the carers have?
  • What will it cost, and does this include the carer’s transport costs and hidden extras?
  • Will you have a regular carer or a number of different people?
  • Can you specify who you have e.g. only a female carer?
  • What standby/emergency arrangements are in place, e.g. if your carer is ill, or you need to contact someone out of normal hours?
  • Will the carer do only what is specified in their schedule or can they do other things within the allotted time?
  • How will they get access? (You can get a key safe installed outside and give the code to those who need it).
  • What do you do if you have a complaint?

Although you can do all this privately it is often useful to have a local authority needs assessment done. They will assess you for funding - see below and also Gov - Apply for a needs assessment.

Getting Out and About

Man on mobility scooter and lady walkingFor many of us we like to get out most days to the local shops, or to take a stroll. The more we do, the longer we will be able to! However, there does come a time for some of us that we realise we would be safer or feel more confident with some support, or our health demands it. The Living Made Easy website covers all the options from walking sticks to powered scooters.

The next time you change the car think about you future needs. Can you get in and out easily? Do you or might you need a boot big enough for equipment or a wheelchair?

And don’t forget your hobbies and interests. They are often the best therapy we can get. There are numerous ways you can continue indoor and outdoor pursuits. If you enjoy gardening you can redesign the garden to have raised beds or more pots to make life easier.

Deciding to Move

You may in time reach a decision that your home does not really meet your requirements and cannot be adapted for practical or cost reasons. Understandably you, or your family, might have strong feelings about you moving. If so, talk over the options with them but remember ultimately the choice is almost always yours to make. The move may come at a time of vulnerability for you, following bereavement of a partner, or after hospital admission. Try not to feel rushed into a decision until you have had time to ask all the questions you would like to ask and considered your options carefully. Some options are:

  1. Downsizing to a bungalow or apartment. Weigh up the layout and size, upkeep and maintenance, access to shops and transport, and maintenance and service costs. You may decide to move to be near family but also think about the friends you might give up.
  2. Living with Family. If you move to live in the home of someone who cares for you, they may qualify for a grant to adapt their house to your needs. For an in depth review of this option, see the Guide to Caring for Elderly Parents.
  3. Assisted Housing see our Guide to Retirement Villages for details of all the options. The Elderly Accommodation Counsel provides free advice and guidance to help you choose.
  4. Care Home. The decision to go into a residential or nursing care home is never an easy one and is usually taken in discussion with our family. Having made the decision many find it to have been a positive one. Diane Athill (b 1917) author, wrote about her decision as follows:

“Almost at once on arrival at the home I knew that it was going to suit me. And sure enough, it does. A life free of worries in a snug little nest (my room really is charming), good friends among my neighbours, freedom to do everything I'm still capable of doing, and knowing one will be beautifully looked after if necessary: what could be better?” . D Athill. The Guardian April 2010.

Our Guide to Residential Care Homes is a practical, comprehensive review of the options including care in your own home. See also the Guide to Caring for Elderly Parents which also covers this topic.

Click to continue to the next section on: 'Support'

Disclaimer: As with any health related information, you should consult your medical practitioner or other healthcare professional to ensure any item mentioned here, or on sites we link to, is relevant for you. Although we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of information we present we make no warranty as to its accuracy and we have no control over and make no warranty over information presented on sites we link to.

This Guide is written by Retirement Specialist Beth Campbell supported by members of the LaterLife team.  


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