Caring for a loved one - challenging care home fears
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As the population ages, so the care industry has adapted, providing cutting-edge developments for the retired through to 24-hour nursing care for those in need. An emotive issue for those going into care and for relatives, here experts dispel common misconceptions about the care industry
The realisation that extra care is needed when we reach a certain age is one that many people struggle with, whether it is for themselves or a loved one. But moving to a retirement apartment or a higher level of care offers greater support and can reduce loneliness and lead to less worry for all concerned.
Today, care is given on a wide spectrum and independence needn’t be sacrificed. Greg Hilton, regional managing director at Churchill Retirement Living, which manages lodges in Bishop’s Stortford and Berkhamsted and is building a new site in Stevenage Old Town due for completion this month, believes retirement apartments offer the best of both worlds – independence and social support – and promote health and general wellbeing, which in turn reduces demands on local health and social services.
‘A large family home requiring regular upkeep can become stressful, while a new-build retirement apartment with lower maintenance frees up more leisure time,’ he says. ‘Maintenance is taken care of by a management company with a lodge manager also on-site five days a week.
‘Our developments are designed to provide accommodation for the active retired who are looking for independent living, regardless of age. They offer the opportunity for purchasers to own their own apartment surrounded by like-minded people providing companionship and a community that reduces isolation and loneliness.’
He adds that there are plenty of activities giving residents the option of ‘doing as much or as little socialising as they wish’. Lifestyle events are held regularly at all developments, from coffee mornings and historic talks, through to fitness classes and antiques road shows. ‘We also allow owners to bring their pets to live at the lodge with them too.’
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A worry for some people thinking about going into the care system is what will happen to their beloved pets. Debbie Gilard of Quantum Care, a non-profit company with 23 care homes in Hertfordshire, says pets are very welcome.
‘There have been many studies conducted into the benefits that pets can bring to care home residents and it has been shown that contact with animals can have a hugely positive effect on both health and wellbeing. At Quantum Care we welcome our furry, scaled and feathered friends. Throughout the county we have pets from goldfish to budgerigars as well as ducks, cats, rabbits and the odd dog or two. We even have a friendly horse who drops in for a visit! We think pets are an important part of the Quantum Care family and they are always welcome in our homes.
Angela Hunt, business development manager at B&M Care, describes the service as a ‘family-run business for families’. B&M has been providing care in Hertfordshire since 1975 and has an industry-leading focus on dementia care.
‘We work in partnership with families; to be involved in the care of their loved ones,’ Angela says. ‘Our aim is simple – to make every moment count for a person living with dementia and their families.’
She adds that there are ‘bad eggs’ in the care industry and ‘the press prefer to publish the bad stuff’, but says this is not a true picture of how people who use care homes feel.
‘The Alzheimer’s Society carried out a survey in 2013 and compiled a Low expectations report. Findings produced positive figures that show 74 per cent of family members would recommend their loved one’s care home and 68 per cent rated their dementia care as good.
‘We strive to support families to make informed choices about residential and dementia care and work hard to dispel myths by offering support through our community of care homes.’
Care Quality Commission chief inspector of adult social care, Andrea Sutcliffe, is a firm believer that living life to the full should not stop at the care home door. A great way to enrich the lives of residents is through activities that are engaging, compassionate, responsive to their personal needs and above all, fun,’ she says. ‘Safe, compassionate and high quality care is what we expect from the people who are responsible for running care homes. Care that is responsive to people’s individual needs and preferences and enables people to live as full a life as possible, is what we want for everyone living in care homes, and already exists in the best services we see.
’If you or a loved one are looking for a care home, make sure you visit, take a look around, speak to staff, and if you can, residents and their relatives. Whether it is a care home or home care agency, have a chat with the manager; their role is crucial in making sure it is a good service.’