Richard’s mother Dinah is 100 and lives in her own house in southwest London, 200 miles away from him in Yorkshire.
"When Mum was 98 she had a bad fall. This frightened her, and she ended up in hospital.
My wife and I started to look at care homes, but I think she’d have been unhappy in one. When she was discharged from hospital the local authority crisis support team swung into action and they were excellent. They came once a day to help Mum get up and dressed, and she realised that actually, with a bit of help, she could manage on her own.
Finding a carer
We only had that help for six weeks, so I knew we had to find care. Mum can afford to pay for it. I cast around a bit, had one false start, and then found a really good agency. The manager came round to interview Mum, and what impressed me was that they wouldn’t just do half an hour: it was an hour minimum. Thirty minutes to get Mum washed and dressed, and the rest to have a chat. That was the key thing for me. Obviously you have to pay for it but money wasn’t the problem. It was the companionship that was really important.
So we set it up once a day and Mum gradually reduced it as she became more confident that she could care for herself. Now the carer only visits once a week. But they have a very close bond and she came to my Mum’s 100th birthday!
She wears an alarm round her neck. That took a bit of negotiation because she had to admit that she needed more support. But she was able to alert people when she fell and that worked very well.
One recent change was when the neighbours moved. They had been there 25 years and she babysat their little boy – he’s 26 now. They had a strong relationship and their leaving was a bit of a wrench. But she’s got good support from her church and there are people who will go and check up on her.
"She's got good support from her church and there are people who will go and check up on her."
If I go on holiday abroad, I ring Mum from wherever I am. It’s always a question isn’t it: what if something happens? But there’s nowhere so far away that you can’t get back, and Mum wouldn’t want me to put my life on hold.
From ‘cared for’ to ‘carer’
It’s a difficult process moving from ‘cared for’ to ‘carer’ and, to my mother, I will always be about 12 years old even though I am now 67!
It was her choice to stay in her house, and I wasn’t all that happy about it at the time. But she has all her faculties, and I respect her wishes. She manages, and long may it continue!"
- Getting local authority funding for care at home: our guide for more information on this complicated area.
- Telecare systems, which can be both helpful to your relative and reassuring to you.
- Dressing and washing, Eating and drinking and Sitting and sleeping are three guides with information about products to help your loved one stay living safely at home.
Page last reviewed: January 2016
Next review due: January 2018