It is projected that nearly 40% of England’s population will be over 50 by 2029 but the majority will be active and able to cope independently. However, as these people age, they will become more dependent and need help from outside services to retain their independence.
The need for care can happen at any time and can be triggered by an accident, such as a fall in the bathroom, or can happen over time such as when a person has a debilitating illness such as arthritis or dementia and finally cannot cope without help.
When the need for care arises, your first step is to get an assessment of needs done by your local social services. The Single Assessment Process combines the assessment for local authority social services with one for health care and is the gateway to any services that may be available. This should be done for both the person you are caring for and yourself as the carer.
If you look after someone with an illness or a disability, you may need to help them move around. It's essential that you know about safe moving and handling so you don't hurt yourself or them. The most common injuries that carers experience are back injuries, which affect more than a million people in the UK. Injuring your back will limit your movement and your ability to care for someone. It could take a long time for you to recover.
Lifting someone incorrectly can also damage fragile skin, cause shoulder and neck injuries, increase existing breathing difficulties or cause bruising or cuts. Your local authority may run training courses in manual handling and may provide you with equipment to make caring for someone safer and easier. Many charitable and independent carers’ organisations can help you find training courses for moving and handling.
Your local authority has an obligation to help carers avoid health and safety risks. If your local authority doesn’t offer manual handling courses, ask for a direct payment so you can pay for a course of your choice.You will find further information about moving and handling in the enclosed link. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/social-care-and-support-guide/Pages/mobility-problems-carers.aspx
If you are preparing a home for someone who has limited ability to look after themselves, it is important to ensure that the accommodation is safe and warm. You need to remove items such as trip hazards and instal grab rails in the bathroom and wherever else they are needed.
You may also need to consider getting a stairlift if stairs are a problem. You can source one yourself or your local authority should be able to advise you on what will meet your needs. The social services department will be able to help and advise on any other equipment that will help with day to day tasks and also on lifeline alarms or sensors that can be installed so that help is at hand in the event of a fall.
If you are providing the care for someone in their own home, it is important to follow the same rules on their accommodation but, as you are providing the care from a distance, it is even more important that lifeline alarms and sensors are installed so that you can be contacted by the system should an accident occur whilst you are not there.
Obviously when you have to travel to care, this makes things harder for you, as it makes it more difficult to fit some of your own work in between your caring duties which you would do if you were caring for your relative in your own home.
Where circumstances allow, many people convert or build an annexe to their home for their relative to move into. This solution has many advantages, in that the person can retain their independence but have help nearby when it is needed.
It also enables your relative to see and be part of the family and, if you have children, to take part in their lives. This is a benefit to them too as, with increasing job mobility, too many children grow up having very little experience of older people and their needs, as their grandparents often live miles away.
This is a new publication for carers. NHS England has co-produced this free guide in partnership with Carers UK, Carers Trust, Age UK, Public Health England and input from carers’ networks. While it is aimed at carers of any age, it is particularly relevant to carers aged around 65 and over and those new to caring. Find out more about the guide and how to order copies here
It is also vitally important that you take care of the legal side of things. These are making a Lasting Power of Attorney and either reviewing an existing Will or making a new one.
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is an important document because it ensures that there is someone in place to make decisions if a person is unable to make these for theirself.
An LPA is a legal document which enables a person aged 18 or over (the Donor) to appoint another person or persons (the Attorney) to act on their behalf and make decisions for that person. When making an LPA a person can also chose to delegate to attorneys' decisions relating to personal welfare – including health care and medical treatment decisions – as well as decisions regarding property and financial matters.
Regardless of a person’s wealth, making a Will is an essential step in estate planning and gives a person peace of mind in knowing that arrangements have been made regarding the administration of their estate. A Will clearly sets out who is to receive their property and possessions, thus avoiding disputes between relatives and unnecessary legal costs.
The National Careline offers a very comprehensive service for making Wills and Lasting Power of Attorneys and further information is available by contacting Victoria Milsom on 01604 521477.
Finally, do remember to look after yourself. Caring for an elderly relative and handling your own responsibilities is not an easy task and it is very important that you look after your own health too. Ensure that you investigate sources of help, take any that is offered and, if there are other members of the family that they take their share of the responsibility too.