Is it Best for the Elderly to Move to a Residential Care Home?

I have just read the results of the first Care Index from Partnership which states nearly 60% of the elderly do not want to go into a care home. Having elderly relatives in our family I can fully understand this but is it best to be looked after at home or not?

According to the results 59% of consumers aged 75-85 say that they do not want to go into a residential care home and 57% say they will have carers come into their own home to help them if need be.

Interestingly almost 50% of the respondents in this age group state they do not want to be a burden on their children – a statement certainly made time and time again by my parents and other elderly relatives.

My two brothers and I have had first hand experience of having to arrange care for members of our family.

Firstly, our parents.

Our father died suddenly in 2010 from a heart attack. The shock was immense, none more so than to my mother who was still recovering from a major heart operation.

Although mum initially seemed to be doing well after my father’s death, she suffered a number of transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) which caused more and more problems. Physically she was also suffering following a fall which left her with a pubic ramus fracture.

Mum needed help. As much as the family wanted to provide this we couldn’t offer her the level of continual support she needed. She was adamant she didn’t want to go into a home and so we worked with the social services to get carers in to her four times a day, the maximum number possible.

The carers did what they could, albeit Mum never knew exactly what time they would arrive as they had a ‘window’ for each call during which they would arrive.

For example, the first morning slot was scheduled for any time from 7AM to 9AM. It got to a point where Mum couldn’t get out of bed on her own. She couldn’t get to the toilet and even getting onto the commode proved impossible on occasion. For a very proud lady soiling herself because she couldn’t wait any longer for a carer was not what she wanted.

There were other positives and negatives from being cared for at home but the upshot of it all was we wanted to comply with Mum’s wishes and keep her at home as long as possible.

Eventually though we had no choice but to place her in a home. A very difficult process and again you can read more about this in another post but suffice to say we had no choice.

Overall Mum was well cared for during the short time she was in the home before she died. After her death it came to light that she did have some deep bed sores that, whilst they may or may not have started in the home, were not treated to the level we would have expected whilst she was there.

The home had a lot of dementia patients, including Mum who was in the early to medium stages of it, and this caused anxiety for Mum as there tended to be a lot of noise and confusion around, whether for example sitting in the day room watching TV or in the dining room for a meal.

Mum was only in the care home for about 6 weeks before she died so our experience was fairly limited.

Secondly, our elderly Aunt.

In contrast to our Mum, our elderly Aunt, who is over 90, had a stroke in the early part of this year. She spent 6 weeks in hospital and then a further 6 weeks in a residential care home on a rehabilitation program.

At the end of the rehabilitation time a decision has to be made on whether to stay in a residential home or to go home. The decision has to take account of input from the ‘experts’, specifically the physiotherapists and social support network, as well as of the course the desire of the patient.

After much deliberation our Aunt decided to stay on in this fantastic care home, at least in the short term. It’s not got the best decor, the highest number of official stars or indeed the flashiest of bedrooms, but it does have carers who really seem to care, food that our rather fussy Aunt enjoys (mostly!) and people with whom she can pass the time of day.

It costs a lot though, some £3000 per month. Thankfully my Aunt and Uncle were always careful with their money and saved for when they got older. That said even with that it won’t be long before she will have to sell her house to fund her care. Not something I agree with, but that’s for another day!

So, is it best to move to a residential care home?

With our first hand experience, for us the answer is ‘yes’. This is based on our particular needs and of course you need to weigh up the pros and cons as they address your own specific needs and concerns.

For us, knowing our Aunt is well supported and cared for is the best solution, albeit it comes with a hefty price tag. We can though visit her whenever we want and spend quality time with her either in the home or take her for a trip out.

And a final point to note. Our Aunt has always said she didn’t want to go to a care home, that she wanted to stay at home and if need be have carers in. She didn’t want to be a burden to other members of the family.

She has experienced both options – her sister, our Mum, primarily being cared for at home and her own experience in a home. She now firmly believes staying in a home is the best option to meet her needs.

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