From working out the most suitable level of care for your loved one, to the types of home on offer, understanding the different options can help simplify the practical process.
The prospect of finding a care home for a relative or close friend can seem daunting – after all, you’re deciding where someone else will live and how they’ll be looked after – but it doesn’t have to be stressful. By working out what sort of care is required and considering the potential choices, it can be the start of a new chapter of their lives.
Remember to think about the care your loved one needs right now, plus what they may need in the future – a facility that offers more than one type could be a better choice than one that only offers a specific kind of care for example.
Care isn’t always a 24/7 option. For example, there’s respite or short-stay care, which is ideal following an illness, accident or operation, or if a family or live-in carer is going on holiday. There’s also day care, which can relieve the loneliness and isolation of people living on their own or be a helping hand for those who want to maintain their independence.
Even the full-time options vary greatly, with specialist dementia care being very different from full-time nursing, residential care and end-of-life care.
There are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and this is set to rise to over one million by 2021 according to charity Dementia UK . Dementia itself is a broad term for more than 200 subtypes of progressive brain conditions, but the five most common are: Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia.
This means that dementia care must be tailored to the individual. Generally, it focuses on maintaining the independence and wellbeing of each person – it’s less about doing everything for them, and more about helping them to engage with everyday tasks and stay active. ‘Dementia care is generally more expensive because it requires a higher staffing ratio than residential care,’ explains Geraint Williams, director of business development at care charity Greensleeves Care. ‘Caring for people with dementia is also a specialised skill and requires staff to have patience and compassion.’
Knowing whether you need nursing or residential care can be tricky but the main difference is that residential care will be with a care assistant, not a trained nurse. A care assistant helps with things such as washing, dressing, meals and medication or going to the toilet, with visiting nurses for occasional medical issues. If health issues become severe, there may be a need to move to a care home with nursing. This ensures a registered nurse will be on duty 24 hours a day and will be more costly.
End-of-life, or palliative, care can be in a residential care home, one with nursing or a hospice, depending on what kind of healthcare is required. When looking for this type of care, it’s important to check that they have a good understanding of caring for someone with a terminal illness or late-stage dementia and the skills to administer appropriate injections or medication. Ideally, they should also be able to support family members through an end-of-life experience.
‘Not all homes are created equal,’ says Geraint Williams. ‘There are variances in the services provided. For instance, in some the food is simple home-cooked fayre, in others it is the same standard as a restaurant. This also applies to internal activities and external outings. Always look at a number of homes and visit them; be mindful that more expensive is not always better but generally the more you pay, the more you get.
‘Consider the cost but also think about how well your loved one would settle, how good the care is, how nice the team are and how you feel. Like choosing a new house or a school for your children, sometimes you just know it is right.’
You can find out more about what different homes are like at Your Care Rating, a survey of care home residents in the UK.
No matter what type of care you opt for, try to make the experience a positive one. Rather than putting it off until there’s a rush to find the right facility (and hope that they have a spare place), talk about potential options with your family ahead of time and request some brochures so you can find a way forward. Nobody plans to need care one day, but by researching what’s right for your family, it can make what’s often a difficult conversation much easier.
 Alzheimers Society, For the Media: Key facts and statistics on dementia and other dementia related topics, https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-us/news-and-media/facts-media