No place like home
Whether our health conditions can be managed at home in old age will largely depend on how well we have prepared.
Most elderly people who live in a nursing home suffer with some form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, however, they only represent half of all people suffering with the illness. The Society recently reported that there are more than 800,000 people in the UK living with dementia, a figure that is expected to grow to over one million by 2025, and over two million by 2051.1
A move into a nursing home is too often not through choice, but is rather forced on individuals by circumstance, regularly leading to feelings of loneliness and insignificance. This is especially true for dementia sufferers, whose difficult behaviour patterns can often be attributed to unmet needs.2
Research shows that nearly three quarters of us want to stay in our own homes as we get older.2 While it is no surprise that most of us want to live independently for as long as possible, evidence now suggests that home care is often preferable to residential care in a nursing home.
Ready for Ageing, a report prepared for parliament, recommends that “older people only go into hospitals or care homes if essential”, and that the home remains as the “hub of care and support”. Furthermore, separate research3 suggests that older adults who have mild dementia, are living at home and maintain contact with the community, experience several benefits:
• Improved quality of life and wellbeing
• Greater social connection
• Higher levels of happiness and satisfaction with care received
• Fewer hospital admissions
• A reduction in falls
• A slower decline in function
“Clearly, home care can deliver a number of benefits for older people, including social interaction and physical functioning,” says Tony Müdd, Divisional Director at St. James’s Place. “It allows people to maintain consistency and familiarity, which is especially important for those with dementia,” he adds.
“Depending on the level of care required, the cost can be comparable to nursing home fees, and there’s the added benefit of one-to-one care based around the needs of the individual, rather than the impersonal structure of a care home,” says Müdd. “Live-in carers are sometimes trained to cope with specific health conditions like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.”
Right at home?
Most of us will adapt our homes to support changes in our health as we get older, but some of us could face a decade or more at the end of our lives dependent on more specialist care.
Unfortunately, if we don’t think about our future care needs, the truth is that we might not get what we need or would want. If our wish is for care to be provided in our own homes, then it is essential that we talk to our partners, families and health professionals about our wishes.
In most cases, it is also essential to talk to a financial adviser about how we might fund the costs of home care. Some self-financing options are quite straightforward, while others are much more complicated. A qualified adviser will be able to explain all the costs and risks involved with each recommendation. They can also help you appoint someone who is legally able to make decisions about your care if you become unable to make decisions yourself.
“It is not an easy topic to talk about,” says Müdd. “Nonetheless it is vital that people engage in discussions about care before the need arises, so that they are supported to manage their conditions at home if that is their wish.”
1 Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Update, 2015: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/download_info.php?downloadID=1677
2 (as above, p.32)
3 OnePoll, 2014
4 Quality of life in dementia patients: nursing home versus home care, Nikmat, Hawthorne, Al-Mashoor, 2011