In Charlie’s words…
Dad had Alzheimer’s and Mum stoically looked after him, and disguised how bad it was from us all. Then she had a mini stroke and went into hospital, and my sister and I discovered to our horror that Dad couldn’t even remember how to make a cup of tea.
Choosing live-in carers
When Mum was in hospital we arranged live-in carers for Dad, who stayed on for about eight weeks after Mum came home because she wasn’t physically strong enough to look after him. We did that ‘on-the-fly’ – I looked at websites and was delighted to find a company that could provide someone. Luckily it worked extremely well.
Making difficult decisions
Then after Dad died, my mum was left comfortably off, in a four-bedroom house that was really too big for her. My sister and I discussed the fact that there was going to be a decline at some point. We talked between ourselves and then with Mum about whether it would make sense to move into a flat with someone on site to keep an eye on her.
But she wanted to continue where she was. She had lived in the same house for 40 years, she knew people in the area, where the shops were, and so on.
If there was one thing I wish we’d been firmer about, it was getting her to move then. In retrospect, my sister and I could have vetted some sheltered housing and care homes, and then one day taken her for a drive and said, ‘We're going to take a look at a possible new home for you.’
I’d be pretty firm about encouraging them towards either sheltered housing or a care home and I’d do it before it became essential.
Two years ago she had a fall, went into hospital and the doctor said, ‘We can’t explain why she fell.’ She was very frail. It would have been extremely difficult to look after my mum because of where we live and what we do. It’s a terrible pressure knowing that your parent needs 24-hour care and not being sure how they’ll get it.
Moving to a care home
By chance, we knew of a very good local care home, and they had a spare room available. Mum got transferred there the same day! She was very rational about it and understood the logic of going into a care home. She is content and comfortable there, and it has taken an enormous weight off our shoulders.
I would advise people to grip the nettle and do some ‘What if?’ thinking. You can’t pretend your mum won’t fall over or your dad won’t have dementia or whatever. But we all put it off. I think you need to ask yourself: ‘What would we do if?’ I’d be pretty firm about encouraging them towards either sheltered housing or a care home and I’d do it before it became essential.”
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