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How Do I Take Care of My Parents? My Mother’s Story


How Do I Take Care of My Parents? My Mother’s Story

Have You Noticed Mum is Getting Forgetful?

You never want to think about your parent’s getting old and frail; especially when they have always been so fit and healthy and full of life. You never want to think of them as elderly.

That’s what my younger sisters and I thought about our parents. Then around 4 years ago we noticed that our mum was having difficulty doing certain things. Her coordination was not what it used to be and she started forgetting things. At first, we just dismissed it as her getting older……………., but she was only 71.

No one wants to think it might be something more than the normal aging process and like many of us, we pushed our concerns to one side; hoping, I guess, that it would not get any worse.

We Need to Talk: Mum Isn’t Getting Better 

Gradually over the next year or so mum’s condition deteriorated, not badly, but enough to be noticeable. We have always been a very close family, but having open and frank discussions about family; especially their health, has never come easy. 

Something had to be said but how do we even start a conversation; do we keep it amongst us, the children? How does dad feel about talking; has he noticed the changes in mum? Does mum think there might be something wrong? Will she become more anxious if we say anything? Maybe it’s best to say nothing and hope it doesn’t get any worse, or better still it goes away. 

NO! That’s not an option, we need to tackle this!

Going to the Doctor: D I A G N O S I S

Mum was booked in to see a consultant.

The diagnosis was a Parkinsonism, together with onset of dementia. You have heard the names, but what does it mean for mum? We were told that she could take medication to help slow down the process, but it would get progressively worse…….. How will she cope? Does she know what is happening to her? Have we lost mum?

Being diagnosed with something serious is most people’s worst fear and a leading cause of stress and anxiety, which is why I guess we don’t talk about health, finances etc, but we knew we had to take action and discuss it as a family and decide how we were going to deal with it.

The Calm Before the Storm

My parents were living together in the bungalow they bought about 14 years ago. Previous to that, they had lived for 41 years in the first house they bought together and raised my sisters and I. The two properties were only about 500 yards apart.

The bungalow had always been seen as their retirement home; all on one level; a lovely south facing garden; easy to maintain and in a neighbourhood they had lived in for over 50 years. Surely they would never have to move again.

The Next Step

Christmas time of 2018 changed things when mum’s health suddenly took a turn for the worse. She got a very bad infection and was rushed into hospital, fortunately over about 10 days and with fantastic support from NHS staff, mum regained her strength and was able to go home. This then raised the next dilemma; is home the best place for her to receive the care she needs?

We decided as a family that she could go home but my father would need additional help caring for mum at home. For the first 3 weeks after mum left the hospital, additional care was provided free of charge by NHS contracted carers. This was organised by the hospital when mum was discharged.There was also the offer of fitting things such as handrails in the bungalow at no cost, however, dad didn’t think they were needed. After the 3 weeks were up, we arranged, with the aid of research, for a privately funded care company to help out, and over the next 6 months or so things were not too bad.

The House is Too Big: Moving to a Retirement Flat

My parents knew that, whilst they only had a bungalow, the garden was getting too much for them and they needed to move. We were worried about mum dealing with the move, but in August last year, they moved into a retirement flat and both of them settled in ok. 

The  2 bed flat was one of 12 in a building sitting in beautiful communal grounds…… and it had a garage for all dad’s stuff! 

Mum and dad were on the first floor and serviced by both stairs and a lift. All residents had to be over 60, (no wild late night parties) and they quickly became part of a very close community. Everyone was very independent and there was a building manager who lived just round the corner who made regular visits and would deal with any issues residents had. It just seemed perfect.

Taking Care of the Legal Stuff

Prior to the move we had sought independent legal advice and made sure their Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney were updated as we knew this was important to deal with and would allow us as children to act on our parent’s behalf regarding financial and welfare decisions. It is so important that these are put in place and the earlier you do them the better. The last thing we wanted was for decisions to be controlled by the Court of Protection because our parents had lost mental capacity before Lasting powers of attorney could be registered.

Taking Care of the Financial Stuff

There are always concerns about how care is to be funded and what allowances are available. Will they have to sell the house? Will there be sufficient monies etc.? As a Lifestyle Financial planner, I had a very good knowledge of the care system and what they needed to do. This at least gave the rest of the family peace of mind in terms of the financial side of things because this can be pretty scary and can be a major contributor in someone’s spouse or children making the decision to take on the role of carer.

Things Were Alright For Awhile With Help From My Sisters

Mum loved being in the flat. She was less agitated and anxious at first because she didn’t have to worry about the garden. My dad had already made the decision to stop having additional help with care at home. This was a concern for my sisters and me but we went with it. My sister’s, who live close by, were popping in every other day to help and make sure mum was getting her medication, eating and drinking as she should, as well as her personal hygiene and making sure the flat was kept clean.

The Toll on My Dad: Care for Carers

My parents were going for regular exercise and mum was going to the local dementia café and other social groups set up for people with similar health issues. Dad was also going to a group that was set up for people doing the caring (care for carers; it is so easy to forget, or not realise, what the carer is going through), they need support and respite as much as the person needing the care.

The Toll Gets to Be Too Much

It is the beginning of 2020 and my sister’s and I notice things are not right. Mum is saying things to us about how dad is treating her and that she is not happy. Dad is complaining to us that mum is wandering around at night waking him up and accusing him of doing things he hasn’t done. Mum is not sleeping and is unhappy. Dad is not sleeping and is unhappy. Interruptions in anyone’s sleeping patterns can create irritability, stress and anxiety.  

LOCKDOWN: Coping in a Crisis

Then …….. Lockdown, COVID hits us!!

The only way we can contact our parents now is by phone or Skype. How are they going to cope alone? We desperately need to see them to make sure they are ok. My sisters are getting regular early morning phone calls from our dad saying, he cannot cope; the sleep deprivation is affecting my own health, you need to get round here now!

A Crossroads in Care: What are We Going to Do?

What are we going to do? We have our own lives and we are giving all the care and support we can already; dad doesn’t want anyone outside of the family to help with care, which we understand, but he cannot cope with the 24/7 care responsibility for mum. My sisters are finding it more and more stressful as each day goes by; dreading the phone ringing and it being dad asking for help; all of our family lives are being impacted, and it’s not for the better! This cannot go on like this!

A Care Home: What is a Care Home?

According to Age UK, Care homes provide accommodation and personal care for people who need extra support in their daily lives. Personal care might include help with eating, washing, dressing, going to the toilet or taking medication. Care homes are sometimes referred to as residential homes. 

We now made one of the hardest decisions any family has to make, find mum somewhere where she could get the 24/7 care she needed and deserved; but where?

Due to Covid lockdown many care homes were closed to taking new residents, but fortunately I was aware of a care home in Bexhill that had only opened just prior to the lockdown. This was a place called Cinnamon Luxury Care's Earlsfield Court in Bexhill-on-Sea

A Respite Stay: What is a Respite Stay?

I spoke to Sandy, the admissions manager there and asked if it was possible for my mum to come for a couple of weeks respite, just to see how she gets on. She said that would be no problem at all and we can then make a decision after the two weeks for mum to stay a bit longer for more respite, and then maybe make it permanent if she likes it. My younger sister and I took mum down for the initial 2 weeks respite stay back in July.

Permanent Residency 

Mum is still there now, thoroughly enjoying herself as a permanent resident of  Cinnamon Luxury Care's Earlsfield Court in Bexhill-on-Sea.

The relief of mum settling in okay and knowing that she is being cared for by brilliant staff who are making her stay, and our visits so enjoyable, is huge. We’ve told her she is on an extended holiday in a wonderful 5 star hotel on the coast.

Guilt and Loss: Getting Through The Day With My Dad

My dad is still finding it hard to deal with emotionally. My parents will have been married for 55 years in November and there is a huge feeling of loss on him, as well as us as children.

I remember a conversation in the car with him after the first visit to see mum, he broke down and said I feel so guilty, “Why?” I said. “Because I can’t give mum the care she needs and having to leave her in the care home”, he said.

I said to him it’s only natural you feel that way for someone you love so dearly and have spent nearly your whole life with. We as children do not expect you to be able to care for mum, you are not a trained professional carer and to do that 24/7 will only cause your own health to suffer. Mum is in the best place, which he did agree, but it is still hard to accept.

We all want the old mum back!!

Visiting Days

Visiting mum still remains restricted due to Covid but hopefully these will become more frequent. We can’t all go together yet as a family but at least we are all able to visit her once a week, and like mum, we are always so well cared for by the staff at Earlsfield.

We continue visits to see mum and hopefully mum and dad will be able to celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary together on 6th Nov at Earlsfield.

A Heavy Burden: Coping as a Carer

I don’t think dad really understood what he was taking on when he decided to care for mum. As children, we applaud him for being so dutiful and loving but there comes a point when you need to bring in the professional carers. Not only that, it’s where the care takes place, and for mum and dad it could not carry on being at home. It is best to make that decision before you’re faced with a crisis situation. When dad speaks to friends and tells them what he has done, anyone who has experienced a similar situation has been so supportive and said he has done the right thing.

Lessons Learned  

This is not the end, but the start of another chapter in my mum’s life and I hope there are many more chapters to come. I’m sure there are plenty of other children, husbands, wives, partners, mums, dads, brothers, sisters and family relatives with similar stories. I just hope that my mum’s story helps other people accept and acknowledge when they need help, and makes it easier to discuss a really emotional and difficult subject, that involves a lot of difficult decisions as a family.

  1. Plan for Eventualities - make sure you have the right protection in place for your family situation. Make sure your family has the right documents in place.  Seek professional help from a SOLLA Later Life Adviser, someone who understands the different stages of care and financing of each stage.
  2. Have difficult discussions early.  Talk with your family about money and health now.  
  3. Plan for Change - instead of reacting to emergencies, you can have contingency plans in place, (ie. first we are going to have family help for a couple of hours, then when that gets to be too much, we can hire a professional for a few hours a day. etc.) 
  4. Recognise Warning Signs early and immediately implement your plans to make transitions easier and less turbulent.

Having to take care of elderly parents, partners or siblings; or even just helping your elderly family members make critical decisions as they grow older is something that partners, children and siblings have to consider. You do not have to go through this alone. Understanding the financial situation and all its aspects is a daunting task and can be overwhelming.  Mike Robertson Associates can help.  We have the experience (both personal and professional) and expertise to help your family from the very start of the journey and through every step along the way.  

Helpful Links & Resources

AgeUK: Arranging Care and Support

NHS: Social Care and Support Guide

Dementia UK - Get Support

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Funding Later Life Care

Will All Your Inheritance Be Spent On Long-term Care Costs

Moving in With Your Adult Child to Save on Care Costs, What You Need to Know

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SOLLA Society of Later Life Advisers

 

Phil Hassell ACSI Dip PFS Life Centred Financial Planner  is an Associate Member of SOLLA, the Society of Later Life Advisers.

 

 

 

Tags: Financial Planner, Family Financial Planning, Family Planning, financial planning, pensioners, Elderly Care, families, Living in Retirement, pensioner, pensioners income, retirement advice, Long-Term Care, later life retirement planning, later life financial planning, planning for later life, financial security, later life, later life planning, personal financial planning, later life forecasting

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