Care is something that’s often not easy to talk about, especially for families and close relatives. Sometimes, an individual might find it difficult to accept that they need help because they’re fearful of losing their independence – and it can be equally tough for the relatives helping their loved one adapt to these changes.
If you’ve got a relative who you think needs some extra care or support at home, then 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 all 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, through to long-term funding plans, and making sure everyone’s looked after in the process – there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. We’ve partnered up with care agency Guardian Carers, to cover 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 it may not be an easy conversation to have. Before sitting down to talk with your relative, try taking a moment to remind yourself of their perspective, and acknowledge why this might be hard for them. Then, if the conversation gets tricky, it’ll be easier for you to remain patient and understanding of how they feel. Below are some tips that may help make speaking to your relative about care a little easier.
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, then it might be best to avoid piling anything else on their plate – the conversation will likely go better if you wait as well.
But most important, is to keep in mind that everyone is different, so the right way for someone else to broach the subject of care with their relative, might not be the right way for your
Family. Try not to overthink the situation, but instead listen to your intuition and to what your gut is telling you; as 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
It’s also a good idea to try to make sure that the conversation is equal, and that both parties have ample opportunity to share what’s on their mind. Not only will this help the conversation along, but 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?
Remember, it can be easy to go into organisational mode and 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 will 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. For example, explaining to your loved one that you want to do what’s best for them, and that care could be a solution to make their life a little easier.
It’s also worth making the point that care doesn’t automatically mean losing their independence because this is a common fear among older adults. Rather, you could try and help them see care as a way of helping them maintain their independence and current way of life for as long as possible.
2. Can my employer help me organise care for my relative?
Sometimes it can be difficult to juggle work and caring for a relative. Therefore, the Government is now urging employers to consider offering flexible working opportunities for employees who have caring responsibilities for elderly relatives. You can read more about the right to flexible working when caring for someone here on Age UK’s website.
Additionally, there are also schemes available that can help make balancing the responsibilities and search for care a little easier. For example, Guardian Carers offer a partnership scheme that employers can sign up to if they want to offer employees the option to access quality care for their parents and loved ones. The benefits include a 15% discount on care, six months free payroll service for the employee’s chosen candidate, and a personal consultant assigned to the employee to help them in their search for care. You can read more about Guardian Carers’ services on their 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 hard 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, and so it’s worth taking the time to consider their feelings and put yourself in your relative’s shoes. People will choose different ways to support relatives depending on their personality and demeanour, but you’ll likely need to spend a fair amount of 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.
These days, care agencies like Guardian Carers will work closely with you to help support your relative and make the transition towards care as smooth as possible on both sides. Some people might prefer to gradually ease their relatives into care – for example, by initially hiring housekeepers or personal assistants – to help them become accustomed to it comfortably over time.
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 begin to 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 The Relatives & Residents Association: a national charity for older people needing care, and the relatives and friends who help them cope. Just remember that you’re not alone and there is support out there if you’re struggling.
If you’re currently helping to care for someone, then 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 £66.15 per week to spend as you choose.
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, then one of the most useful things you can do is arrange a care needs assessment through the 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 will 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 here. Or, to apply for a care needs assessment, you’ll need to contact the social services department of the 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 this article by the Money Advice Service.
Alternatively, a care consultant can also help you navigate the complex and often confusing UK care system. Whether your relative would like a simple question answered or would like a bespoke care planning service, a care consultant will be able to help. From sourcing suitable care to working out what your relative is entitled to and pointing you in the right direction towards professional services, they’ll have the answers to help you make an informed decision.
6. How much does it cost to self-fund care?
Your relative will usually be expected to contribute towards the cost of their care, although 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 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 does require 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 are various 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.
An example of a reputable care agency is Guardian Carers. Guardian Carers is an introductory service that places carers, companions, and housekeepers across the UK and beyond. They provide a range of premium care services, from live-in, live-out, and full-time or part-time basis. After an initial consultation to discuss the care needed, your personal consultant from Guardian Carers will search for and interview carers based on your relative’s needs before sending over a tailored list of candidate profiles to choose from. You can learn more about the process here, or book an initial consultation to discuss your relative’s needs and help find them the perfect carer.
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. Some examples of employer responsibilities 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, then the employer 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.
Have you had to consider care for a relative recently? What has the process of talking about and arranging care been like? Join the conversation on the Rest Less community forum, or leave a comment below.