elderly careAgeing affects us all, and at some point, we have to consider its implications...

Whether that's for ourselves, or for our family and friends.

While access to better healthcare has resulted in people living longer and healthier lives, those approaching old age may still need a helping hand.

Loved ones might be well placed to cover such needs, although, for those that don't have such a support network, other services are accessible.

Although it can be stressful and confusing to discover what assistance is available, we hope this proves a useful introductory guide.

What Is Elderly Care?

Elderly care is a service provided to cater for physical and mental disabilities as people age.

It can include both short-term assistance to recover from a specific condition, or long-term intervention, and can include a range of services, tailored to the individual and their specific situation.

Elderly care can help people live their later years happy, healthy and with dignity.

Why Is It Important?

Getting older doesn't always result in disability, although it's certainly more likely.

Around 40% of over 65's have a longstanding, limiting health condition, while the number of people in care in the UK is predicted to double by 2035. 

With such an increase in demand, care services are becoming more important than ever.

They allow our loved ones to live independently, enjoying life, for longer.

Who Would Benefit From Elderly Care?

Anyone who's struggling with activities of daily living as a result of a health condition as they grow older may benefit from elderly care.

There are many conditions which may cause someone to seek help:

- Dementia
- Complex medical conditions like Parkinson's Disease
- Mobility issues
- Personal care problems
- Frailty
- Loneliness
- Polypharmacy (taking more than one type of medication)

It's important to note that an elderly person doesn't always recognise when they need help. As a friend or family member, this can be difficult to see and requires sensitivity in its handling.

Some questions to consider before talking to your loved one may include:

- Can they move around the house safely?
- Can they leave the house alone to attend appointments and go shopping?
- Are they able to prepare their own food?
- Are they well nourished and hydrated?
- Can they hear the telephone and door?
- Can they keep the house tidy and free from hazards?
- Are they managing their personal care, such as toileting, washing and dressing?
- Are they becoming forgetful?
- Are they lonely?

If some of these questions raise concerns, it may be best to approach the conversation gently and openly. 

Talking to health professionals with your loved one may give you both peace of mind that help is available if required.

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What Services Are Available?

Numerous elderly care services exist to keep someone living an enjoyable life and make things easier for everyone involved. 

Elderly care should aim to provide the recipient with confidence that their needs are met and families peace of mind that their loved ones are well attended.

Care services vary hugely by the individual and health condition, but here are a few examples:

- Companionship
- Help attending appointments
- Support for social engagements
- Help with shopping
- Housework
- Food preparation
- Pet care
- Medication support, including prompting
- Washing
- Dressing
- Toileting
- Transferring - for example, from the bed to the chair
- Nursing care for complex medical conditions

The exact services you can expect depend on a needs assessment and also where the support is delivered.

Where Is Elderly Care Delivered?

Elderly care doesn't always mean care homes. Indeed, it's often preferable for someone to continue living in their own home for as long as possible.

Maintaining well worn daily routines in familiar surroundings can help an older person remain psychologically and physically fit.

They may enjoy their community bonds and living in their local area, as well as having longstanding friends and neighbours close by. Removing an older person from this environment can be an intimidating change.

This is why home care or domiciliary care is often a great option. Numerous agencies exist to deliver services to a loved one at home. Trained staff can attend for a short 15-minute check, all the way up to overnight supervision or 24-hour care.

Although an individual may be fit enough to stay in their own home, sometimes they might benefit from a burst of social interaction. In this case, a day centre might provide access to activities promoting social health and wellbeing. Participating in an exercise class, listening to music, or simply connecting with others can be hugely effective in increasing engagement and happiness.

For those with greater needs, or who are more isolated in their home environment, alternative living options may be the preferred option. For example, sheltered housing can provide a safe environment and access to elderly care services in a purpose built complex

Otherwise, a care home will be able to provide the services required. Vetted, trained staff can support a loved one with their normal activities in an environment set up for such needs, with care procedures and all the necessary equipment in place.

Although going into a care home is a daunting prospect for many, by researching the facilities in your area, you'll be able to find an environment that's a good social fit for your loved one.

How Can I Get Help?

Even if you've identified that a loved one might benefit from elderly care, this is where the process can get confusing.

While there's a lot of information available, the care you ultimately receive depends on your specific situation.

That's why it's best to consult with the GP of the person requiring care. If they have a complex or unstable medical condition it will likely already have been identified and may result in an assessment for NHS Continuing Healthcare.

However, in most cases, those with lesser needs will undergo a care needs assessment by their local authority. This is a means-tested assessment, in that an individual may be responsible for some of the costs of their care, depending on their financial situation. 

In addition to finances, the local authority will assess an individual's care needs and eligibility for extra support.  A few years ago, where you lived in the country may have dictated what this support included.

Since the Care Act was introduced in 2014, the assessment has supposedly been standardised, although individual interpretation of the guidelines may still vary.

We hope this short guide was a useful introduction to elderly care and your options. If you'd like to discover more about UK care services, click here for our free guides and resources.