Don't look down...

Don't look down...

Posted by Debbie Harris

Is this how your life feels right now?

Balancing your job, your children and now your self-funding parents can get a bit precarious

Whoever said ‘you can have it all’ was clearly misguided!

Many of us are experiencing a demanding time in our lives where we seem to be both cash and time poor (how did that happen?), when, on top of everything else, our parents urgently need support – perhaps more than we can actually give them, however much we want to.

So the guilt and frustration set in.

A recent webinar with employees of London-based professional services firms revealed just how significant an issue this is, and confirmed the knowledge gaps that exist amongst those who find themselves responsible for organising care for elderly parents, or even grandparents.

First of all, no one has any ‘spare’ time, and without knowing what is going to be involved in finding the best care solution, it’s hard to know where to start.

Because we don’t tend to plan for later life, we don’t know what to look for or where to go for guidance despite the enormous amount of information that is ‘out there’. We tend to wait for the crisis; only then do we find that synchronising a variety of services is immensely challenging and understanding the variety of options available requires time-consuming investigation.

'This is precisely why we established Autumna: to provide information and access to everything you need to know – in one place, and thus help you to plan effectively for the future – whether for yourself, your partner or your parents.'

Debbie Harris

The webinar attracted more than 300 participants, all of whom had responsibility for supporting their parents in some way, finding their way through the care maze. The concerns and queries they raised fell under six headings. These are listed below with reference to relevant places on the Autumna site where you will either be able to find the information you need, or a clear signpost:

1. Planning

  • What can be done in advance – pre emergency?
  • How far in advance?

See: Planning

2. Understanding the different service options - specifically:

  • How many different types of care are there?
  • When might I need them?
  • What services does each offer?
  • What does each cost?
  • Are there care homes that cater for specific medical conditions – eg MS?
  • In a retirement village, do you buy your own property?
  • Are their carers on hand in a retirement village?
  • How should I weigh up the options to arrive at the best solution?

See: Care advice

3. Funding 

  • What are the funding options available to self-funders?
  • How do I find out whether mum is entitled to any support with medical or care costs?
  • What is the role of the local authority, specifically:
    • does it pick up the bill if the money runs out as a self-funder in a care home?
    • will it cover the cost of care until you can release funds tied up in property?

    See: Funding care 

    4. Making decisions on behalf of parents

    • Who should I approach for an LPA?
    • Who should have an LPA? Both parents? Ourselves?
    • If my parents will not be advised, we’ll have to wait until there’s a crisis; what will happen then?
    • At what point can a GP intervene and recommend care when a parent with early onset dementia does not want to go into a care home?

    See: Legal advice

    5. Managing the emotional challenges

    • The changing relationships within the family (Child/Adult; Husband & Wife)
    • Having tough conversations with parents
    • Helping them understand their needs
    • Overcoming their obstinacy
    • Managing disagreements with siblings
    • Staying patient, limiting stress, managing guilt
    • Keeping the logical and emotional separate

    6. Providing support to parents

    • How can I help when I am living remotely from them?
    • They both have increasing needs – how can I manage those?
    • Mum has passed away and dad is lonely – how can I help him?
    • How can I ensure they have emergency support when I am not available?
    • Where can I find financial advice free of charge?
    • Are the funding rules the same if a person is under a section 117?
    • Is funding available to make adaptations to a house so that it is safe and secure and means my mum can continue living there?

    Grandmother and granddaughter
    Best interests at heart

    The final two categories confirm the need for support in the more emotional areas as well as the practical. They also highlight the value in planning early. We can all save ourselves a lot of worry and stress if we address a difficult subject in advance – before it becomes difficult – than if we ignore the future and just keep our fingers crossed, whilst that lurking elephant in the room becomes enormous.

    As the manager of a truly wonderful care home in Tunbridge Wells said to me just last week:

    ‘If more people planned for this in good time, they could come in here and really enjoy living, rather than expecting to die.’

    A dramatic comment perhaps, but a point well made.