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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 04-Dec-14 16:19:39

Taking care of Dad

Liz Bowyer's father recently moved into West Hall care home in Surrey. Liz shares her experience and the spectrum of emotions that she and her family faced when the decision was reached to help her father make the move from his home in Lymington, Hampshire.

Liz Bowyer

Taking care of Dad

Posted on: Thu 04-Dec-14 16:19:38


Lead photo

Liz Bowyer on her difficult decision.

My father is 97 and, while it can be hard for him to admit, he is frail. He had needed medical care following an infection and this latest admission to hospital was a cross roads for me. It was clear that he couldn't cope on his own. He had carers come in a couple of times each day who, while lovely, just didn't have the time to give him the care that he needs.

Dad was steadfast in his desire to stay in his own house and I had previously conceded that it was his decision; he had the right to live wherever he wanted. That changed when this trip to the hospital occurred, I looked at him and just thought there was no way he could go back home on his own. I felt, and the doctor agreed, that he needed round the clock care.

I did the research, without Dad, into the best options that were near to me and my children, who are 24 and 26. I dropped in with no warning to the care homes that I looked at - I didn't want to make an appointment and give warning to my arrival. I wanted to see things as they are.

I felt desperately selfish and guilty that it was my decision. I knew how much Dad wanted to retain his independence but at the same time I just didn’t feel like it was safe for him to stay in his house. I’m an only child and therefore the responsibility fell to me, my partner and my children to make the hour-long drive from Surrey to Lymington to visit each week. It became less of a pleasure and more of a chore to use any time off work that I had, driving all that way and I knew I was becoming snappy when I visited.

Of course, I still feel guilt. But, I know I have done the right thing for Dad. He has stopped talking about going home now and when he recently had to go to hospital he looked forward to going back to West Hall.

I spoke to my children and partner about the options. Even if Dad stayed in his own home, the refurbishment required would be extensive. At the very least we’d need to add a wet room and handrails. He would also need a live-in carer, but even that wouldn’t provide the kind of 24/7 support needed. My partner brought up the possibility of Dad coming to live with us and, although it sounds selfish, this just wasn't going to be practical. We don't have the space where we live and so would have needed to sell his house and ours to buy something with an extension for him. To be honest, I don't think any of us would have been happy with this set up. I work full time and don’t have the time, or the experience to give him the care he needs.

I work as cabin crew and would often worry about Dad having a fall while I was away. Once he did end up in hospital while I was out of the country and there was nothing I could do when I turned on my phone after landing and saw the news. Now, when I'm flying I don’t have the same anxiety. I know he is being cared for and that he is safe.

Of course, I still feel guilt. But, I know I have done the right thing for Dad. He has stopped talking about going home now and when he recently had to go to hospital he looked forward to going back to West Hall. He is just down the road from us these days and one of us visits almost every day to see him.

Moving a parent into a care home is a stressful and upsetting experience for anyone. It’s odd taking up the reins on their life in the same way that they did for you when you were young. It’s very challenging.”

Are you in a similar position with an elderly parent? You may find our guide to paying for care helpful, or you can download a copy of the Grey Matters guide from Anchor, a not-for-profit provider of housing and care for older people. Alternatively, there is advice and support on our forums for a range of issues around this topic.

By Liz Bowyer

Twitter: @Anchor_Trust

Mishap Thu 04-Dec-14 17:07:13

There is more than one way of discharging one's responsibilities to parents than total DIY. Care homes can be an excellent option and we went down this route for both my parents at different times and it was undoubtedly the right decision. I know that in the end, after having fought to remain at home, Dad was relieved to no longer be burdened with all the responsibilities of running his home. What he found at home towards the end was that he was in his home but had no independence and was totally reliant on 24 hour care going in - so home did not feel like home any more.

dartmoordogsbody Fri 05-Dec-14 09:59:05

My mother had to go into residential care when her Alzheimer's Disease finally exhausted my father. I had to wait for him to recognise this, but afterwards he became a campaigner for other people to see the need in their own families and accept the situation for the benefit of everyone involved. When at 94, after a fit and healthy lifetime, a succession of medical emergencies kept him in hospital for months, he was told he needed at least temporary residential care, we talked about it and he died that night, unexpectedly. He made his decision.

Now my husband is in residential care. I was ill, exhausted and suffering from depression when he had another major fall and the decision was taken out of our hands temporarily and became permanent.

The point is that governments and medical and Social Service staff all ask the patient where they want to live. Often there will be a degree of some form of dementia which makes this an exercise in futility because they will always say 'home' — it is what they know. That is when we have to accept the shift of responsibility and become the 'parent'. It is hard, and involves much adjustment and guilt. It shouldn't. We know, as the person affected does not, that too many other people are also suffering from trying to look after them and that their care will actually be better when it is 24 hour, expert and guaranteed. No service delivered at home can be as reliable.

As carers, we need to take the emotion out of this decision and then make it. Once the new situation has settled down, visits become pleasurable again (or at least bearable) and the person moving will find new stimulus.

It is hard. But we have to be the grownups. Accept the responsibility and ditch the guilt. Guilt just takes energy and helps no one.