Care is something that’s often not easy to talk about – especially among families and close relatives. Sometimes, people can find it difficult to accept help due to fear of losing their independence. And it can be equally tough for the relatives supporting their loved ones through these changes.
If you have a relative who you think could benefit from some extra care or support at home, you might be wondering where to start.
Decisions surrounding care aren’t always straightforward, and will often require a great deal of thought, planning, patience, and sensitivity. So, it can be useful for family members involved in the process to have a little help along the way.
From having that first chat with your relative about care and exploring what type of care is available, to long-term funding plans and making sure everyone’s looked after in the process – there are lots of questions that need to be answered.
With this in mind, we’ve pulled together seven questions that you might like to consider if you think a relative needs care at home.
1. How should I talk to my relative about care?
Care can be a difficult topic to talk about, especially between families and close relatives. With this in mind, it’s worth preparing yourself for the fact that conversations might not be easy.
Taking a moment to consider the other person’s perspective, and acknowledging why this might be difficult for them, can be a useful step to take. Then, if the conversation gets tricky, it’ll be easier for you to remain patient and understanding.
Below are some tips that you might find useful when speaking to your relative about care…
Choose your timing and location carefully
Talking about care in an environment that your loved one is comfortable in and where you can both relax is important. This will make it easier for you both to open up, listen, and be entirely honest with one another – without having to worry about any distracting external noises or people eavesdropping.
If you can, it might be helpful to bring the topic of care up when your relative is in a more positive mindset. If they’re having a bad day or week, piling anything else on their plate can be counterintuitive. Plus, the conversation will probably go better if you wait for the right time too.
That being said, everyone is different, and the right way for someone else to approach the subject of care with their relative might not be the right way for your family. So, try not to overthink the situation, but instead, listen to your own intuition. This should help you get a natural sense of when is a good time to speak to your relative about care and when isn’t.
Allow them the space to speak and listen to them
Making sure that the conversation is equal, and that both parties have ample opportunity to share what’s on their mind, is key.
Not only will this help the conversation along, it may also help you to work out what type of care your relative would benefit from the most. For example, is there anything that they’re particularly struggling with at home? How do they feel they’re coping? Do they have any preferences for the type of care?
It can be easy to go into organisational mode and want to start sorting everything yourself, but it’s important that your relative plays as much of a role in it as they want to as well.
Even if circumstances mean you’ll need to arrange it yourself, it’s still important that your loved one feels as involved as possible. This can also help manage the loss of control and independence that they may be experiencing.
How to bring the topic of care up with your relative
From the get-go, it’s important to try to make the purpose of the conversation clear. Some people find it useful to explain to their loved one that they want to do what’s best for them, and that care could be a solution to make their life easier.
It’s also worth highlighting the many positives, and explaining that care doesn’t necessarily mean losing independence. In fact, for some people, care can offer a new lease of life – by allowing them to stay at home and not rely on family members so much.
2. Can my employer help me organise care for my relative?
Sometimes it can be difficult to juggle work and caring for a relative. As a result, the government is now urging employers to consider offering flexible working opportunities for any employees who care for elderly relatives.
You can read more about the right to flexible working when caring for someone on the Age UK website.
3. How can I look after my relative’s mental wellbeing during the care process?
Care can be a sensitive topic because it can often be difficult for people to acknowledge when they need help. They may feel embarrassed, upset, or even ashamed to accept that they can no longer do all the things that they used to.
Requiring an increasing amount of care will naturally be upsetting, and they may grieve the loss of their independence. For those who have never needed help before, it can be especially painful to accept.
These emotions can take a toll on a person’s mental wellbeing, so it’s worth taking the time to consider their feelings and put yourself in your loved one’s shoes.
People will choose different ways to support relatives depending on their personality and demeanor, but you’ll likely need to spend some time cheering them up on down days.
Taking a compassionate approach to your relative, listening to them, and arranging simple things like a trip to the park, or having their grandchildren visit, can make a huge difference. For more ideas, you might like to have a read of our article; 9 fun activities to do with the person you care for.
4. How can I make sure I’m looked after too?
While the majority of your focus will be on the person needing care, it’s also important to make sure that you’re looked after in the process too. Care can be a heavy topic, and being at the forefront of planning and arranging it can easily take its toll.
It’s important to make sure that you still have time for yourself to explore your interests, clear your mind, and breathe.
If you’re feeling anxious or stressed about a relative needing care, you could consider seeking support from groups like Care Rights UK. Care Rights UK is a national charity supporting people needing care and the relatives and friends who help them cope. Just remember that you’re not alone and there’s support out there if you’re struggling.
If you’re currently helping to care for someone, it’s also worth getting a carer’s assessment through your local council. This will assess what could help you with your caring role and could result in help with equipment that would make caring easier, information about local support groups, and respite care.
You can also check your eligibility for Carer’s Allowance, which is a payment of £76.75 per week to spend as you choose.
For more tips, our article, 8 ways to look after yourself when caring for a relative, is worth a read.
5. What type of home care would my relative benefit from?
If you think that your relative could benefit from care but would like some guidance on the matter, one of the most useful things you can do is arrange a care needs assessment through your local council, which will determine whether your relative needs care.
Someone from the local council (for example, an occupational therapist) will assess your relative’s needs by asking them how they cope with everyday tasks such as dressing and cooking, and what it is they struggle with.
If the council finds that your relative requires care, they’ll recommend possible options, which can include changes to the home, or practical help from a paid carer.
The care needs assessment is free and anyone can request to have one, so it’s worth arranging one to get a clearer idea of your relative’s needs.
You can find out more about what happens in a care assessment and how to prepare for one on the NHS website. Or, to apply for a care needs assessment, you’ll need to contact the social services department of your local council, which you can do by calling them or enquiring online.
If you’re unhappy with the outcome of your care needs assessment, you can read about challenging it in our article here.
6. How much does it cost to self-fund care?
Your relative will usually be expected to contribute towards the cost of their care. However, depending on their individual circumstances, the local council may contribute.
The amount your relative will need to pay for their care will depend on both their level of need and what assets they have. It can also vary depending on the type of care they require and the area they live in.
Paying for home care and support
Following a care needs assessment, the local council will carry out a financial means test. This test will consider your relative’s income and any savings that they have in order to work out how much they’ll need to pay towards the cost of care.
Certain types of income may not be included in the financial means test (for example, disability benefits and pensions) – but all others will be considered.
Shown below is how the financial means test for social care considers income and savings, and how this will determine the amount your relative will need to pay towards home care and support…
|Your relative’s capital||What your relative will have to pay for care|
|Over £23,250||Your relative will need to pay full care fees – in other words, they/you will need to fund any care needed.|
|Between £14,250 and £23,250||The local council will contribute towards some care, but your relative/you will need to pay for the rest.|
|Less than £14,250|
This capital won’t be included in the financial means test. The local council will pay for your relative’s care.
However, any ‘income’ included in the means test will still be taken into account, for example, savings or pensions.
If your relative is eligible for financial support, they can decide whether they’d like the local council to arrange the care for them, or if they’d prefer to receive direct payments and arrange it themselves.
If your relative is unable to manage direct payments themselves, then a ‘suitable person’ (for example, a family member) can be appointed to receive and manage the payments on their behalf. You can read more about who can receive direct payments here on the Citizens Advice website.
7. Where can I find reputable care providers?
If your relative doesn’t need to move into residential care but is still in need of some help and support, you can either search for home care through care agencies or employ a care worker directly.
Finding care through care agencies
Your local council should be able to offer a list of care agencies in the area and advise you on suitable care regarding your relative’s budget.
You can also search for registered care agencies using the websites below…
- In England – the Care Quality Commission is the social care regulator.
- In Wales – the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales is responsible for inspecting social care services.
- In Scotland – the Care Inspectorate regulates and inspects care services.
- In Northern Ireland – the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority is the social care regulator.
- The UK Home Care Association provides details of homecare agencies that follow its code of practice.
Organising care through an agency can be more expensive than employing a care worker directly, but there a number of benefits to it.
For example, the care agency will handle all the employment responsibilities for you and will provide a replacement care worker if required.
Just remember to make sure you read any contracts over before signing, including any additional fees, for example, an ‘Introductory Fee’. If anything seems unclear, it’s worth seeking advice from organisations such as Citizen’s Advice or the Disability Law Service.
Employing a care worker directly
If you want to employ a care worker directly rather than using a care agency, it’s important to be aware that your relative will be taking on the responsibilities of an employer.
Employer responsibility examples include finding out whether the employee has the right to work in the UK, checking they’re DBS checked, and ensuring there are no potential health and safety risks.
If your relative is unable to be involved in the employment process, and someone is receiving direct payments from the council on their behalf, the employer’s responsibilities will fall to them instead. You can read more about the responsibilities of employing a care worker here on NiDirect Government Services.
There are some websites that provide useful information on employing care workers. For example, ACAS offers advice and guidance to employers and employees, including information on employing care workers. Being the Boss is also a peer support website where people with disabilities share knowledge, support, and advice on employing personal assistants.
Acknowledging that a relative needs care can be difficult and may come with increased feelings of responsibility.
For many people, this is new territory, and it can be complex to untangle the care system and work out the best way to do things.
From deciding what care is required to openly speaking about it with your relative and putting a long-term care plan in place, there’s a lot to think about and many questions to be answered.
But breaking down these questions and calling on the resources of local councils, care providers, financial advisers, and support groups will hopefully help to remind you that you’re not alone in this.
By reading this article and taking the time to consider your relative’s needs, you’ve already taken the first step towards helping them find the best care.
For more guidance and support, head over to the care section of our website.
Have you had to consider care for a relative recently? What has the process of talking about and arranging care been like? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.