Caring for Elderly Parents and Relatives Living in a Care or Nursing Home
Moving an elderly parent into a residential care or
nursing home is a major decision and not one to be taken
lightly. There are financial, welfare and psychological aspects
to be considered and very often it is a last resort. Sending
elderly parents to a care or nursing home often makes people
feel very guilty, quite apart from the effect it has on the
parent, so think very carefully. It is also a decision that has
to be taken together, so include you, your parents and any other
relatives and close friends of your parents who are likely to be
The difference between care homes and residential homes is
the type of need your elderly parent has. If they need help in
doing things because their mobility is restricted or for some
other reason, they will require a care home. If, on the other
hand, they have a condition that requires medical
supervision, they will need a nursing home. Understandably, the
latter are more expensive.
Under the Care in the Community legislation, elderly and
disabled people have a legal right to a full assessment of their
needs and a written care plan from Social Services, so if you
want this help, contact your local Social Services office. The
assessment must look at help that can be provided to keep the
person in their own home and, if services such as home help are
required they must be provided. Read the two pages in this
Guide, Living in their Own Home and Living with You to learn a bit more about what this might
The advantages of care for older people in care or nursing
- Handing over responsibility for their care to
professionals means that, when you go to see them, you can
spend quality time with your elderly parents.
- There is the social element to nursing, or residential,
homes in that your elderly parents can make friends with the
The disadvantages are:
- The guilt that is associated with it.
- Finding the right home can be difficult and stressful.
The payment rules and arrangements for care or nursing homes
are complex and you will need to contact your local Social
Services office, who will explain them to you. Basically, they will help pay towards the cost of
homes run by your local council or by independent people
providing your elderly parent has less than £21,500 (2007
financial situation will be part of the assessment that is
mentioned above; you can choose not to have the financial part
of the assessment but that means that your elderly parent will
receive no financial help.
Choosing a Care or Nursing Home
Choosing the right nursing home is obviously the most
important decision you have to make, once you have all decided
that your elderly parent should move into a home. You must do
your research and make sure, as far as you can, that you make
the right decision; having to move from home to home can be very
traumatic for elderly people and it is not something that they
should have to do. Personal recommendation is obviously the best
way to find a home but even then you must go and look at it
carefully, question the staff and make sure that it is suitable
for your parent.
There are a number of guides to care and nursing homes and
you will find them if you go to Amazon.co.uk and type in
'Good Care Homes Guides'. Your local Social Services department
should be able to supply you with a list of homes in your area
and there are a number of agencies that can help:
You should also go to the laterlife page on Nursing, Residential and Care homes, which has some more very useful
you are looking for a home to care for your elderly parent, it's
worth drawing up a list of criteria against which you can
measure the homes you look at. People will have different
criteria for their elderly parents, but below are some that you
might want to think about:
- Is the home close to shops, relatives and friends and is
it close to transport links?
- Is it all on one level and, if not, does it have lifts?
- Does it have single bedrooms and/or will it accept
- Does it have a garden the residents can use?
- Does it appear bright and lively and does it have
- Are residents able to follow their own hobbies and
- Are residents able to choose which doctor looks after
them? Are they consulted about their medicines?
- How well trained and qualified are the staff and are
there people on duty at night?
- Can residents keep their own furniture?
- What provision is there for them to keep their
belongings safely and privately?
- How is residents' money handled?
- How much freedom are they allowed and how much privacy
are they afforded?
- What are the visiting arrangements?
- What are the mealtimes and how varied are the menus? Can
residents make their own snacks and drinks?
- What are the rules about alcohol?
- Can residents make telephone calls whenever they wish in
- Is there a suggestions and a complaints procedure?
- What is the ratio of staff to patients?
- what is the staff turnover rate?
- How much time each day do staff spend with the
- How are emergencies handled?
- If the home turns out to be unsuitable, how easy will it
be for your elderly parent to leave?
Get as much information as possible on all of the topics that
are important to you and your elderly parent and then match each
of the homes you see against that information. Don't be taken in
by grand furnishings and facilities; they are important but so
are atmosphere, care and the lifestyle that is on offer. You
should be able to get a feel for the home the moment you step
inside it - the atmosphere, the smell and so on. The key
thing is that your elderly parent will feel at home. Don't
forget to ask other people, too, if they have any
recommendations. Talk to friends and relations, your local
doctor and anyone else who might have some experience of homes.
It's a huge decision to send your elderly parent to a care or
nursing home. You will probably feel guilty that you are making
it/have made it. However, if you can honestly say that you have
done everything possible to find the best home for your elderly
parent, depending on them and their personality, then there is
no need for guilt.
One other thing you can do is to let the staff know who your
elderly parent used to be, not who they are now they are perhaps
old and frail.
Now read the pages of the Guide that you haven't already read
in order to get a comprehensive insight into caring for elderly