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Planning Retirement Online

Caring for Elderly Parents and Relatives Living in Sheltered Housing

 Sheltered housing is an ideal option for your elderly parents if they are fit and active enough to live independently but could benefit from having the ability to call for help in an emergency.

It is designed to be a bridge between a fully independent home and residential care and sheltered housing schemes were originally run by local authorities, housing associations and the voluntary sector. Sheltered housing run by councils and the voluntary sector is for rent only, whilst that run by housing associations is for rent or part-buy. Now, however, there are many private sheltered housing schemes where you can buy a property, usually on a leasehold basis. Indeed, following the trend in the USA, we are now beginning to see what are sometimes called 'retirement communities' springing up in this country.

Caring for Elderly Parents and Relatives links

 The 'retirement communities' have other facilities such as a centre with a bar and restaurant, golf course a shop and so on. The more traditional sheltered housing schemes are a collection of houses and flats with a warden living in one of them who can be summoned when needed. What they all  have in common is that elderly people live on their own, in their own homes, but with help near at hand. This does not rule out obtaining help from social services in the form of carers and so on; it is an extra benefit. To see how to find out about the care that is available through Social Services, click on  'Living with You' in the link box to the left.

When looking for sheltered housing, you need to draw up the criteria that you believe that caring for your elderly parents requires. Have a look at the list we have provided for care and nursing homes and do a similar one. It is important that you choose sheltered housing that will be appropriate to the needs of your elderly parents. However, you may need to be patient because a lot of sheltered housing schemes have lengthy waiting lists, whether they are in the public or private sector.

Most of them are usually kept to about 30 units of accommodation and the best sites are close to shops, health centres post offices and public transport. The location will usually be high on people's list of criteria, but there are other important factors, too, such as the availability of help at all times, the standard of the accommodation and so on. 'Retirement communities' are usually larger than 30 units but similar criteria will apply. For example, some of the larger developments provide residential nursing care in their schemes, or build sheltered accommodation on the same site as a nursing home, so residents are assured of continuing care as they grow older and more frail. However, all these factors are reflected in the price!

If you and/or your elderly parents are considering buying sheltered housing, there are possible additional costs and other issues that you must enquire about:

  • Service charges, which cover items such as maintenance, the upkeep of the grounds and building repairs. However, some residents have had these charges increased dramatically after the first year, particularly with new schemes, when things such as wardens' salaries, insurance premiums, cleaning contracts etc are taken into account. You need to satisfy yourselves as far as possible about these charges.
  • Make sure that the contract states what are the responsibilities of the management and what is down to the residents.
  • See if any of the residents are members of the management committee, so that the residents have the opportunity to safeguard their own interests.

Sheltered housing has the benefits of giving elderly parents the chance to live independently alongside people of a similar age so that they can make friends and not feel lonely. They also have the benefit of help that is on hand and only minutes away. However, as with everything else, you must ensure that it is right for your elderly parents and that it is the best option.

To find out more about sheltered housing, have a look at Age UK and Alternatives to Care Homes websites. To get lists of sheltered housing schemes in your area and for other help, go to The Elderly Accommodation Council. There is also a useful website at Care Home. You will find information on assisted living facilities right across the UK from a wide range of operators and individuals.

Now have a look at the other pages in this Guide to get a comprehensive view of caring for your elderly parents.

This Guide is written by Rosemary Martin supported by members of the LaterLife team. Rosemary brings her first hand experience and expertise as a former Residential Care Home Proprietor and Manager.
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