Looking for a care home can often come in the midst of a stressful situation when there is a growing realisation that independent living options are no longer working. Families who have been through the process have a unique perspective and insight. We hear from Jane whose mother and mother-in-law are both now living at the same care home, Royal Court (part of the charity Lilian Faithfull Care). She shares her story and offers advice from what she has learnt along the way.
“Mum has dementia, poor eyesight and other complicated health issues. I spent two years getting a clear diagnosis whilst her health was deteriorating and she was forgetting medication. She was having falls in the garden and was a victim of rogue traders. She was vulnerable. We had tried putting a lot of things in place like getting carers in and an alarm for her to wear but it was all refused. Something had to give. It culminated in a multi-agency meeting where it was decided ‘things need to change.”
Jane started to look round at the options “I didn’t want just a single room as mum was going from a big Victorian terraced house with a large garden.” “I knew this was the only place in Cheltenham which offers residents their own flat.”
Jane and her family had used care homes twice for respite following operations but did not want to use them again. “The first was unsuitable for mum, it was aesthetically pleasing, a boutique style place, but it was unsafe for her.” “The second was a shocker”. “If I’d known Royal Court did respite she would have been in here.”
Jane’s mum moved in quickly after they visited Royal Court. “Mum put up lots of barriers to moving into care so there was compromise on both sides. We mobilised everyone, the whole family. We had a convoy of cars and fitting everything into her new flat – everything she was familiar with, we brought in. We put her three china seagulls in the same position in the lounge to give her that familiarity and comfort.” “To be that accommodating it was absolutely fantastic.”
Jane’s mother-in-law moved in the following year as her dementia had worsened and she was wandering. “We knew the layout and we knew it would be good. The transition was much easier for her – she was very accepting.”
Jane’s mum and mother-in- law both have dementia, “it’s about getting them both in a place where they feel a sense of contentment.”
“I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Royal Court, having their own flats, it’s so rare. They have their own space.”
“The activities are good here, it’s not just tokenism, they are engaging with people. My mother in law joins in a lot, whereas my mother chooses not to. I would say get involved where you can. My mother relates to the team, they are like an extra family. One member of staff even came in on her wedding day to see the residents, she absolutely loved that.”
After twenty years in teaching Jane is now a carer herself running her own home care business. She also took a NVQ Level 4 in Health and Social Care when she realised her relatives were showing symptoms of dementia and wanted to understand more. So what advice does she have for talking with those living with dementia?
“People often tend to focus their conversations on the short term memory things like ‘How did you sleep’, ‘What did you have for lunch?’ or ‘What have you done today?’, instead try to focus on a topic in the past, perhaps a holiday, a favourite place, a hobby or past job that they’ve enjoyed. Try and think of a few ideas before visiting so you can bring the conversation round.”
Jane has a final piece of advice for people considering what to do when it is becoming obvious a loved one isn’t coping;
“It’s being brave enough to say, ‘enough’s enough’ and finding somewhere where your family member can be safe, secure, happy and in company. Yes, you have guilt, but you need to break through this and as a family you need to work together. You’ve got to just dig in – if you don’t do something the consequences could be worse.”
“The relief was huge . We didn’t have the worry about checking them at night or worrying if they didn’t answer the phone, or getting calls at 2 or 3am. We have no regrets. It’s worked out for the better.”
For advice about finding care for a loved call any of the Lilian Faithfull Care homes and day hubs who will offer help and guidance. www.lilianfaithfull.co.uk/contact