How do you know when an older person can no longer live alone?
Family members tend to know when they are getting increasingly worried about a older person living on their own especially if the person is getting unsteady on their feet and is at risk of falling. Or you might notice that your mother/father is getting forgetful or the person not looking after themself properly, for example if they appear unwashed or they have lost weight or the house is a mess. Obviously in a crisis situation, where your parent has fallen and ends up in hospital you will be negotiating between the GP and the hospital as to the best course of action. You will probably get advice from the hospital doctor as to whether your parent can go home or whether they need a greater level of care and decisions may need to be made in a hurry as the hospital need the bed.
Another situation where this question may arise is where someone is suffering from dementia. If a person with dementia is living with a partner it is also important to consider the impact of the dementia on the partner. If the person with dementia keeps repeating the same thing or asking to go out in the car or getting up in the middle of the night the impact on the partner can be considerable.
You may decide to organise family carers from withing the family or you might consider homecare. Another option is to look into respite in a nursing home with a view to a more long term stay. It is important to have a discussion with the family about their views but it is reasonable to expect that there will be different opinions. Some people may have a vested interest in keeping the mother/father at home whereas others may be in a hurry to send them to a nursing home. It is important to put the welfare of the older person at the heart of the decision. Expect the parent to be resistant to change so the way the subject is raised with them is important.
One way of approaching this tricky subject is to get the favourite child to ask the older person whether they think they need more help. Ask how much help they need and if what they say is wildly unrealistic try and persuade them that actually given their situation they may need a few more hours. How would they feel about applying for home help? Explain that whilst it might be strange in the beginning to have “a stranger” come into the house they will soon get used to it and even look forward to the regular visits. Mention that the family will feel more reassured to have someone check on their mother/father on a regular basis.
In the beginning it is a good idea to have a meeting with family members without the older person being present and ask the brothers and sisters whether they can give any time to looking after their mother/father. Do not assume that everyone will be willing to do this and do not assume that everyone is prepared to give the same amount of time. This is where misunderstandings start and they will only get worse. It is best to have an open, upfront, honest conversation at the very beginnning where everyone lays their cards on the table. Family members have their own lives with their own families and work commitments.
It is perfectly ok to say that you are not available or you are not in a position to commit to looking after your mother/father, indeed this is increasingly the case.
If you do decide to examine the possiblity of nursing home care the first stage of the Fair Deal application is a Care Needs Assessment and this is usually carried out by the public health nurse or GP. they will check how well the person is able to wash and dress themelves, their level of independence and their cognitive functioning. It can be hard to accept that your family member is struggling but there are people who can help. Don’t make hasty decisions, it is best to consider all options.
If you would like to know more please use the contact form on www.emerlavineldercare.ie to book a consultation.