Prepare to care for your parents - 5 key conversations

PUBLISHED: 09:30 15 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:49 15 September 2020

It is important that everyone is involved in those care conversations. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It is important that everyone is involved in those care conversations. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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The crucial five care conversations you need to have with your parents

Giles Massingham and his father. Photo courtesy Giles MassinghamGiles Massingham and his father. Photo courtesy Giles Massingham

The Coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us into making premature decisions about how best to care for our parents and grandparents. Elderly care experts Age Space Norfolk are urging families to have the right conversations now and to put in place the plans for care so that when the unexpected happens, whether that be a sudden change in health or a national pandemic, everyone is prepared.

TOP 5 CONVERSATIONS

1) MEDICAL HISTORY

In an emergency it is vital to know what medication your parents are taking. Have a list on your phone detailing allergies, previous surgery, chronic conditions and current medication, especially if your parent is on blood thinners like Warfarin. This information is only recorded at the GP surgery, and is not accessible out of hours, even to the hospital staff.

Print out the list and pin it to the ‘fridge in case you are not available during an emergency. Paramedics will have easy access to all the necessary information and will be able to make an informed decision.

2) CARE OPTIONS

There will come a point when your parents will need more help to live independently at home. Rather than wait for that day to arrive, you should have an open discussion about the care options available. Depending on medical needs, the three main options will be: 1) Moving in with you 2) Care in the home from a professional care provider or 3) Moving them into a care home. All are costly, can be intrusive and will involve change.

Chatting through these options in advance will help you to prepare financially and mentally for when that day comes.

3) MONEY

Funding elderly care and later life can cost between £600 and £1,600 per week. A local authority care assessment will determine the care and support needed and how it may or may not be funded.

If your parents have over £23,500 of savings and assets, they will be funding their own care. Between £14,000 and £23,500 the state and local authority will part-fund their care: less than £14,000 and all care funding will be provided by the local authority although this will be subject to the authorities’ own weekly budget cap.

It is an incredibly unpredictable environment – you don’t know how long care will be needed and when those care needs might change. It’s important to plan ahead and research affordable local care options.

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4) LEGAL STUFF

If the finances are traditionally managed by dad, this could leave mum vulnerable if something was to happen unexpectedly. It is worth chatting about joint accounts and powers of attorney to avoid both parents being left at a loss.

Check that your parents have written a will and that you know where the latest copy is.

Create a folder containing all important information such as bank account details, National Insurance number, Passports, Driving Licence and vehicle ownership papers, Birth and Marriage certificates and Insurance details including private health insurance. Log important numbers into your ‘phone.

Last but not least - and it’s a tough one - Advance Directive or Living Will. It’s so important to have the chat well in advance of potential need so you can honour your loved one’s wishes when it comes to medical care.

5) GET SMART

None of us want to ‘spy’ on our families so the prospect of monitors and call centres can be, quite literally, alarming. However, used in the right way and at the right time, such technology can play a vital role in keeping your parents safe and you in the loop. We encourage families to research and discuss Telecare options such as alarms, sensors, trackers and monitoring. Smart Home technology and everybody’s friend Alexa can also help your parents to stay independent at home.

GILES’ STORY

Giles’ father Keith has dementia and his mother Ann suffered a stroke in the first few weeks of lockdown. There was a lot of confusion regarding social distancing Giles explains: “My dad needed 24-hour supervision and we felt we had no choice but for my brother and I to take turns looking after him while my mum recovered in hospital.

“We had no idea how hard it was caring for someone with dementia. My mum did a fantastic job holding things together and sadly our twice weekly visits weren’t enough for us to see how much his condition had deteriorated.

“My first piece of advice to others in a similar situation, is to not take things at face value or bury your head in the sand if you suspect something is wrong. Families need to be more open and have these tricky conversations.”

Keith had to go into a care home for respite care while his mum recovered from her stroke at home.

“It was too difficult to care for both of my parents and my dad’s behaviour made it impossible for mum to get better. Coronavirus certainly complicated things, however, I wish we’d had conversations about care options and the legal stuff earlier. Making decision on the fly just made everything so much more difficult and upsetting.”

After several care assessments, Keith has remained in the care home and the family are now waiting to visit him when it is safe to do so.

There are an estimated 100,000 unpaid carers in Norfolk. Age Space Norfolk is part of an online network of 11 regional sites sharing local information and expert advice on caring for elderly relatives.

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