Christmas is a time when families come together, sometimes for the first time in weeks or months. Families are often dispersed across the country – if not the world – and Christmas can be one of the few occasions in the year when you spend an extended period of time with parents and relatives. It is only then that you might discover that the reassurance “I’m fine” that parents have given over the phone masks their struggle in living day by day. You suddenly realize that their health, and their ability to cope, is deteriorating.
There may be tell-tale signs that a loved one is finding it hard to manage – the house is not as spick and span as it always used to be; the garden is overgrown; paperwork is piling up or personal grooming is compromised. Relatives may have lost weight; the kitchen cupboards might be empty. You might see that simply getting around the house is becoming a struggle. Other signs might be less obvious. You may begin to notice that a parent has adapted their behaviour to mask signs of confusion in their partner or that they no longer feel comfortable or confident going out of the house as much as they used to.
Many elderly people are very reluctant to complain or to admit that they are finding life difficult: they resign themselves to struggling on, often to the further detriment of their health and well-being. But help and support is available and it is important to act before a crisis hits so that they can stay as independent as possible and keep control over decisions about where and how they live.
There is a very fine dividing line between just about coping and not being able to cope at all and a simple seasonal illness might push someone quickly over that line. It can take a week or more to arrange good care at home starting from scratch – and considerably more time at Christmas – so it is a good idea to put in place a little extra support before it is desperately needed so that it can be easily extended when necessary.
Just because someone is finding it difficult to manage where they are living now doesn’t mean that the only option is being “put into care” – but many elderly people fear that this is the case and so they won’t admit that they are struggling. The most important thing to remember is that your physical environment can have a dramatic effect on both your physical and mental health and well-being. Living in the right place with the right support can allow people to retain their independence and enable them stay in their own home as long as they live. That might mean taking the big decision to move to somewhere more manageable before health deteriorates or a crisis occurs.
Even for those for whom independent living is no longer possible there are many attractive options available from excellent domiciliary or live-in care to Care and Nursing Homes which, despite the very negative and worrying media coverage, are far from the Dickensian Workhouses that many fear. The right Care or Nursing home can provide wonderful care, with fantastic food – and the ability to mix whenever one chooses with other people can alleviate the desperate loneliness and isolation many elderly people suffer living alone in their own home. Thinking now about care and support options means that decisions in future do not have to be made in a crisis.
Remember too, elderly people without children. They do not have the natural fall back of being able to call on children to help them in an emergency and can find themselves alone and unsupported at times when they need it most. If you have elderly relatives or neighbours in this position, helping them to make a contingency plan now can provide much needed reassurance and confidence to manage in the future.
TimeFinders are Senior Life Specialists providing practical and emotional support to elderly people and their families facing changing circumstances. We are particularly experienced in assisting people ageing without children and those whose families are caring at a distance. Whether moving to a new home or modifying your own, we will help you decide what is right for you. Then, with practical and professional support, sympathetically and sensitively offered, we will work with you to enable you to live happily, comfortably and securely in this phase of life.
If you are worried for yourself or about a parent or relative please contact Alison Hesketh on 01672 890801 or email Alison.firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for a free initial consultation.