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It’s natural to want to help your parents or another relative or friend as they grow older and less able; however, what started out as a daily visit or occasional helping hand can often escalate into something you were totally unprepared for – a caring role.

Looking after an older person can be demanding – they often have complex needs and long-term conditions, including dementia.

An ageing population means that many retired people are now caring for parents who are in their 80s, 90s and even older. If you are working-age, you might be juggling the care of your elderly relatives with family and work commitments.

Getting support from social services

Contact your local council to get the older person’s needs assessed or reviewed. You should be offered a carer’s needs assessment, but if not, ask for one.

The right housing

It can be very hard to leave the home which holds a lifetime of happy memories; however, if the older person is unable to get in and out of the property, or use an upstairs bedroom or bathroom, it might be time to consider moving to supported accommodation or even residential care.

You might think the best option is for the older person to live with you; however, do give it plenty of consideration first.

If moving is out of the question, find out if any adaptations can be made to the person’s current home.

Technology

Advances in technology mean it is now much safer for an older or frail person to carry on living independently at home. 

Telecare and community alarms will give you peace of mind when you cannot be there, and daily living aids will help the older person to carry out certain tasks themselves.

For more information about the equipment and technology that might help you in your caring role visit Carers UK.

When you are both carers

It’s not unusual for two older people with care and support needs to be caring for one another. Each of you would be unable to cope alone, but together you are muddling through.

If this is your situation, it’s better to ask for help before things reach crisis point, even if it’s just information or advice you want at this stage. You can contact social services, or find out what other support is available, for example, from local charities.

Dementia and mental capacity

Looking after someone with dementia is emotionally demanding.

If their dementia is not too advanced, encourage the older person to plan ahead so that others can look after their interests in the long-term.

If the other person no longer has mental capacity, you can apply to be their ‘deputy’.

The Alzheimer’s Society has produced a guide for the carers of people with dementia and offers training for carers. Which? has ideas for activities for people with dementia.

Arranging your own home or residential care services

If the older person has sufficient funds to cover the cost of their care, you can arrange your own personal (home) care or residential care. Always check the care agency or residential care home you choose is registered with the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales.