Many will resist consigning a parent to a residential care home, but with emergency hospital admissions for people living with dementia rising a third in five years, the system is not working for either daughter or parent.
Familiarity is incredibly important for those with dementia – and as Peter Seldon, CEO Consultus Care, explains, the option of 24/7 live-in care not only improves the well-being of elderly parents, but it changes the family dynamic, enabling daughters to be daughters, not carers.
According to figures from the Alzheimer’s Society, there are currently around 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. This number is projected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040. With one in six people over the age of 80 now living with dementia, the impact on families is significant. While it can be devastating for anyone with a parent diagnosed with a long-term condition, such as dementia, arguably the biggest impact is on the ‘Alpha’ daughters. These women are the primary care providers in majority of cases, to the detriment of the traditional parent-child relationship as well as their own mental and physical well-being.
Even before diagnosis, it can be hard for families to face up to the fact that a parent is declining. Indeed many elderly individuals will work hard to hide their frailties, for fear of losing their independence, even a much loved pet –20% of elderly people would put their health at risk by refusing to go into care without their pet and 17.4% would pretend they were fine so they didn’t have to go into a home and leave their pet. The result can often lead to an emergency situation, including hospital admission. Research published by Alzheimer’s Society in January revealed that more than 1,000 people living with dementia were being admitted to hospital via Accident & Emergency units each day, with some ending up stuck on wards for months.
No one wants to visit a parent in hospital for months on end. It is therefore important to be honest about a parent’s capacity to live alone safely. And, if that is no longer an option, what are the alternatives? Few will have the space to house a relative; and, working full time, will be unable to offer the level of care required. The apparently inevitable option is a move to a care home – a situation that can be distressing for those involved, and isn’t necessarily the right, or only course of action.
However well camouflaged, the care home setting cannot compare to one’s own home. From the smell to the décor, the fixed meal times to the other, often distressed, residents, many would not want to visit a loved one in a care home. And the fact is that people living with dementia are likely to deteriorate much faster in a care home. From the loss of familiar surroundings, and pets, to the lack of one to one time (touch time), moving an individual out of their house and into a residential care setting, even one with dedicated dementia care, is far from ideal.
One alternative is live in care, where a professional, qualified carer lives in their client’s home 24/7. These fully trained live in carers enable parents not only to stay in their familiar home surroundings but also keep their own routines. Breakfast is what the individual wants and when. Friends and relatives can pop round for a cup of tea at any time. Pets can stay. And it is quiet. Plus, of course, trained carers will spot any potential health issues – such as Urinary Tract Infections – and enable the early interventions that are key to reducing the risk of emergency hospital admission.
For the Alpha daughter, live in care can reverse the change in the parent/child dynamic. With qualified live in care 24×7, individuals typically feel a weight lifted. Sitting with a parent at the family home over a cup of tea is familiar. Knowing the parent is being well cared for, with up to ten hours of touch time every day, ameliorates the worry.
Of course, the parent is still living with dementia, which is hugely upsetting. But enabling them to stay at home, safely, in familiar surroundings, eating the food they love, being in the garden they have tended, is also proven to reduce the decline, especially for individuals with early onset dementia. For the Alpha daughter the pressure reduces – enabling them to relinquish the role of primary carer and go back to being a daughter again.