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When is the right time to consider moving into a care home?

For some individuals and their families, the decision about care is very clear, however for some families it can be a stressful decision.

Is it time for your loved one to move into a care home? Your loved one may have a fall or illness which leads to a long period in hospital. During this time, it can become clear that your loved one will not be able to return to their normal lives at home. This is often very challenging and emotional, but there may be options available to ease the stress and worry. Your loved one may also be struggling at home and not able to cope with day to day duties. This can also be a clear sign that your loved one now requires more support.

This, however, is not always the case. If an elderly person is living independently in their own home, changes to their well-being and abilities can be gradual. In this situation, it can be incredibly difficult to decide when to consider a move into a care home or sheltered accommodation.

Signs it may be time to consider care

There are certain signs to look out for when trying to make the decision. One of the main signs to look out for is your loved ones eating patterns. Do you find meals untouched or food stocks not going down as would be expected? A report by the Patients’ Association in 2011 estimated that three million people in the UK are either malnourished or at risk of malnourishment. Those aged over 65 and living alone were the highest risk group.

Another key point to consider is your loved ones health. Many elderly people have chronic conditions and rely on medication. This will be vital for their well-being and is also a clear sign for concerned relatives. Keep a close eye on their medication, remind them to take it and try to find ways of helping them to remember. But if medication is consistently missed, this is a sign more support is needed.

The safety and wellbeing of your loved one will always be the main concern. Signs of disorientation and confusion need to be closely monitored because of the risks to personal safety. Typical issues include, your loved one going out at unexpected times, perhaps late in the evening and/or disordered behaviour. For example, a relative spoke to one of our advisers recently about finding an iron placed in her mothers fridge, and this was her first main sign to seek help. You may also find that disorientation is worse at certain times of the day, evenings are mostly common. Relatives often describe getting a flurry of phone calls during the evening, but following morning their loved one not remembering the calls or being very alert and capable.

Care Needs Assessment

If you’re still unsure? The key advice in this scenario is obtaining a professional opinion. In the UK, anyone with concerns about their loved one is entitled to ask for a Care Needs Assessment.  Your local authority is obliged to carry this out for you, regardless of whether your loved one will be self-funding or social services funding. This assessment is carried out by a social worker.

The timescales for this assessment vary according to where you live and the efficiency of your local authority. It typically takes two to three weeks in some areas and up to six in others and this can be a source of great anxiety if a family feels they are nearing a crisis point.

Sometimes, people disagree with the view of a care needs assessment and very often, the care needs of an elderly person changes over time. If you feel your loved ones needs have changed, you are entitled to request another care needs assessment and there is no set amount of time which needs to pass between one assessment and another.

Care options available

Of course, considering a move to a care home involves complex emotions, relationships and difficult questions. Many families are reluctant to address the question of a care home, knowing it is likely to involve major financial issues, so they put it off. Often, the elderly person themself is strongly opposed to a move into a care home. It is better to address these issues sooner rather than waiting until a crisis point; although that may be easier said than done.

There are some good options which may help bridge the gap if your loved one is struggling to manage independently, but feels very opposed to the idea of a care home. Some care homes offer a day care option. This enables your loved one to benefit from the meals, support and a social environment of a care home, but return to their own home during the evening. Respite care can also be a good option.  It can enable your loved one to try a care home setting, sometimes overcoming their anxiety about what this might involve.

There are also some very good facilities, usually described as Senior Living accommodation, offering the option of self-contained flats; very different to the traditional ‘care home’ but with the option of accessing additional support within the same facility if needs increase.

In conclusion, if you feel very worried about an elderly loved one, your first step should be obtaining a Care Needs Assessment. This will provide a professional, independent view which will help you and your family to work out what to do next. Remember, there are an increasing number of options and ways to access respite and day support, which may help your loved one and your family to decide on and agree next steps.



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