On the move?

Leaving the family home is never easy for an elderly relative but sometimes there’s no choice. Here, three families share their tips

After the death of her father, Alison Hammond helped her mother, Mary Brown, 86, to downsize from the family home in Stockport, where she had lived for 45 years, into a sheltered apartment in Wantage, Oxfordshire – nearer to her daughter.

Families need to give elderly parents or relatives plenty of time to think through such an important decision, says Hammond. “I wanted to make sure that I was doing what my mother wanted and making the decisions that she wanted me to make,” she says.

Mother and daughter did not discuss any house moves until two years after their bereavement and then Hammond conducted the initial research. “I found this particular apartment and talked to her about it. My mother came down to see it and loved it.”

“I wanted to make sure that I was doing what my mother wanted and making the decisions that she wanted me to make” – Alison Hammond

Having selected the apartment to buy on a Pegasus development, Hammond made separate lists with her mother of what she wanted to take or leave, then drew up secondary lists about what would happen to the items she left behind.

“The whole process made me realise that it is important to think and plan ahead,” says Hammond. “When my time comes, I don’t want to downsize in one go”. I’ll move from our four-bed detached into a three-bed semi, and then into an apartment.”

Mary Brown had felt isolated in Stockport, not just because she was 175 miles away from her daughter but because the nearest amenities were a mile away. “My mother had to rely on neighbours to drive her everywhere. But now she can walk to the shops, she is more independent and much fitter – the change has been dramatic,” says Hammond.

Access to local shops and facilities was one of the deciding factors in their choice of location. “We had looked at several others in similar complexes but they were in out-of-town communities. Here my mother has a lot more human contact, and the local shops have got to know her.”

And while it is important to choose accommodation which suits the person’s needs now, you need to look ahead too.

So at the Pegasus development, meals can be delivered and the bathroom features low-level furniture. “We thought it was important to think about what mum’s mobility might be like in five years,” adds Hammond.

For Margaret Murray, 81, an assisted housing scheme with 24-hour onsite care has offered peace of mind to her and her family. Murray moved from her Carlisle home of 54 years to a one-bedroom flat in Burnside Court near the city, run by retirement housing specialists Anchor.

“Moving here is the best thing I have ever done”, says Murray, who enjoys the reassurance of having help with washing and dressing, and emergency help on hand. Domestic tasks, such as cleaning and laundry, are also catered for.

Residents eat together in a dining room and socialise in the lounge, which runs a daily activities programme and a film club. “I’ve never been so busy in my life. We have lovely little parties and get-togethers,” says Murray. “I’ve bumped into a lot of old faces from the bowling circuit.”

After a long stay in hospital following a fall and serious illness, 77-year-old Brian Suddaby’s dementia had worsened. His family, social worker and hospital staff all agreed that returning home was not an option and that finding him a place in residential care was the best way forward.

The family chose the modern, purpose-built Richmond Care Home in Sprotbrough, South Yorkshire, part of the Ladhar Group. “The big difference between this and others was that the staff showed an interest in who he was as a person before his accident and before the dementia set in,” says his daughter Claire Suddaby, 46.

The Dilnot Review

The independent Commission on Funding of Care and Support, chaired by Andrew Dilnot, published its recommendations for government on the reform of adult social care in July. A White Paper is expected in 2017. The commission is calling for:

  • a lifetime cap of between £25,000 and £50,000 on an individual’s contributions to social care costs
  • the means-tested threshold above which people have to pay their full care costs to rise from £23,250 to £100,000.
  • a single threshold, across all local councils, for entitlement to care
  • continuation of disability benefits
  • people living in care homes to be responsible for paying their general living costs
  • improved services for carers, with new legal rights to services
  • the establishment of a national source of advice

Design considerations such as en suite facilities, wide windows and plenty of handrails played their part but the family were most reassured by a sense that they could still be close to their father, she says.

“My mother can share meal times, either in dad’s room or the dining room. My parents have been married for 53 years and so there has been a big change for my mum as well. We are pleased that families are seen as important and we do not feel that he is isolated there.”

The family also appreciate the home’s emphasis on being part of the community. Residents use local amenities such as the library, coffee shop and pub and visit the community centre and museum.

“We chose a home which offers nursing care, even though he doesn’t need it at the moment. It is registered for EMI, which means that if his condition deteriorates we know that we do not have to move him,” adds Suddaby.