Caring for an elderly relative often means that sooner or later you will start to think about whether it's time to move them into a residential care home. Perhaps you are struggling to deal with daily visits and night-time phone calls to their home. Perhaps you already have homecare services and aren't sure if they're meeting your relative's needs. Whatever your reasons for reaching for the glossy brochures of smiling, and extremely young looking elderly residents, we've put together a list of some of the things those brochures might not tell you.
Gardens aren't always accessible
Many residential care homes have beautifully maintained gardens but often they aren't used by the residents. Sometimes it's a simple question of encouragement. As people age they often lose self-motivation. Your relative may enjoy smelling the flowers but unless someone actually takes them out into the garden it won't occur to them to go.
Sometimes the gardens are poorly designed. Walkways and can be uneven and narrow meaning unsteady residents, or those that rely on walking frames, simply can't use them with or without assistance. Be sure to check the state of the garden and how often residents get to use it.
It's not a home from home
Often it says in the brochure that residents are allowed, indeed encouraged, to bring furniture and personal items in with them. In practice, however this may be limited by the furniture already provided. There could be delays in hanging paintings or mirrors and limited shelf space for displaying ornaments. Ask to see a room – if possible the one your relative will be moving into – to determine what they can bring with them.
Even if the brochure says that you can visit when you like, in practice it may be the case that you are limited to certain visiting hours which isn’t the case when someone comes into their home as part of live in care jobs. Meals are usually served at set times to assist with catering and the staff will make it quite clear that you will have to wait to see Grandma. Children and pets may only be allowed at certain times or in certain areas.
Whilst only one partner in a marriage may need the extra care provided by a care home it is unlikely they will want to spend the rest of their days living under separate roofs. Some care homes can provide a double suite with enough room for two to share, but others will accommodate married couples in separate single rooms – not necessarily even on the same floor of the building.
Many older people have pets as companions and they can form deep bonds. You can find care homes that accept smaller pets but generally moving into a care home means that you will need to rehome the pet as well. Even if you choose to look after your relative's pet you may not be allowed to take it on visits which can make the transition from independent living to care home resident even more stark.