Over the course of my career in care I’ve come to understand that for many people, speaking about living arrangements in later life can be a difficult conversation to have with loved ones.

I’ve joined Anchor as the Customer Relations Manager for Moore Place care home in Esher at an exciting time, it is one of a range of new retirement housing and care home developments the organisation is about to open. But as exciting as the grand openings are to my team, we also understand that openness and honesty are the best way to approach the sensitive subject of later life care with the people who will benefit from these services. Helping to change how people think about care is essential, especially as recent Mintel study found that in the UK, only 40% of people are prepared to move their relative into a care home should the need arise.

Understandably, many older people will wish to remain in their own homes for retirement and will not have planned in detail for any developing care needs. Approaching the subject of care, honestly and openly is crucial and preparation is key.

My experience supporting families looking for care homes over the last 9 years has shown me that it can be difficult when you start to notice that an ageing parent or loved one may need additional assistance with their day-to-day lives. Many people have told me that knowing a parent wishes to stay in their own home and uncertainty about whether they can acknowledge the change in their abilities can be distressing, especially when you are wondering how to broach the subject. How can you discuss such an important life decision, suggest options such as home care or moving to a care or retirement community, without causing unnecessary upset?

Options such as home care, the visiting of a registered carer to assist in day-to-day duties like tidying and getting dressed, are not often welcomed with open arms. Common reactions are a reluctance to accept help and the feeling that they’re coping perfectly well with their situation. External assistance can be seen by some as a bar on their independence or loss of privacy.

I’ve found that rather than putting off a difficult conversation, it can help to recognise the positive influence other sources of information can have. If speaking directly is not a possibility, another idea could be to ask for help from a trusted friend or medical professional; someone outside the immediate family. This approach, where the first suggestion of bringing in help comes from a less involved party, can give your loved one a chance to mull over the subject in their own time and help future family conversations go more smoothly.

When it comes to sitting down and discussing the subject one-to-one, it’s important to keep in mind that getting the right support is actually likely to preserve the independence of your loved one rather than diminish it. With the worry of daily tasks such as gardening, cooking or laundry taken care of, many who have the assistance of a carer will enjoy their newfound freedom. The initial worry or reluctance is usually only about the perceived loss of independence that a carer will bring.

When you approach care options you could try relating them back to yourself or a dependent of your loved one. Mention how it could really help you or their spouse to get some extra assistance with care duties. Expressing your worries and needs, especially if you are currently the primary carer can switch the issue around and put your loved ones’ mind at ease that it is ok to ask for help. Mention how the daily visit from a caregiver or assistant would significantly help you or others. This approach can help the care receiver feel more independent by showing them that the help in the home is more for the benefit of family members who are struggling to cope.

Additionally, many people are not fully aware of what types of care are available. Moving to a retirement community where you continue to live in your own home and have the option of care as and when needed, is a choice that many wished they’d made sooner. At Anchor, an award winning not-for-profit organisation, freedom and choice are paramount when it comes to later life care and therefore we offer a full property portfolio of options for older people including luxury retirement villages, affordable retirement properties for rent and specialist care homes.

When it opens later this year Moore Place care home will offer individually tailored care plans that incorporate the specific aspects of support your loved one wants to help keep them fully in control. Active social calendars with safe, friendly surroundings and well-trained care staff at hand always help to make moving to an Anchor care community a stress free experience. 

Social inclusion and independent living without the worry of day-to-day chores can help to give your loved one a new lease of life. For many older people, the prospect of moving to a retirement community can feel like their life is being turned upside down.  With a dedicated team to ease the transition, a vibrant, like-minded and friendly community waiting, the choice to move could be one of the best decisions to make together, for both your loved one and you.

You can download Anchor's free Grey Matters Guide to making well-informed retirement plans for more advice on how to start important conversations about later life with your loved ones.

Sonia Hamilton-Martin is Anchor’s Customer Relations Manager at Moore Place care home in Esher

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