It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of going into a care home would fill older people with dread – and no wonder.
Many of them were poorly maintained, smelly and depressing places. They were often called ‘God’s waiting rooms’.
Old folk would often be left either alone or sitting in a room with other older people with little else to do other than watch endless repeats of Midsomer Murders or the Antiques Road Show on TV to keep them entertained.
Staff were poorly trained and often uncaring. There were several stories of many of them being physically abusive to the residents.
Cleanliness seemed to be bottom of the agenda, with many residents not being washed for days and reports of many bed-bound residents left to lie in their own faeces for days before finally being attended to.
This was particularly dreadful for those who had no family or friends to visit to help them or speak out on their behalf.
There was little regulation or guidelines covering care homes at that time, so there were few comebacks on staff for their appalling behaviour or neglect.
Although many care homes are still far from perfect, with many being unable to provide the care needed because of underfunding or lack of staff, things have changed considerably since then.
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IS A CARE HOME REALLY THE BEST OPTION?
The idea of going into a care home is, for many older people, a frightening prospect. After living an independent lifestyle all of their lives, the thought of losing that independence and admitting they need help is a significant step.
But there comes a time when many of us simply can’t cope with living on our own or even within a family home before we start to become a burden – even to the most caring, dedicated and loving family.
As much as the family may want to keep an elderly relative with them, sometimes the duty of care becomes too much.
Families often feel a tremendous sense of guilt and failure at the thought of sending a loved one into care, as they feel it’s their duty to look after an elderly relative as best they can. But there often comes a point when there is no choice.
These days, in particular, many households rely on both householders to hold down full-time jobs, especially if they have children, and giving the care needed to older relatives can be too much of a strain – and not only financially. The pressure can affect their relationship as well.
Trying to face the challenge of balancing family life with being a full-time carer can often prove to be too much, leading to arguments and worse.
For many who have heard the horrific tales of care homes, as described above, the very idea of sending a loved one to such an institution is unbearable.
Then, of course, there is the guilt factor and feeling of failure. How can one send away and effectively evict someone from the family home – particularly if that someone is Mum or Dad who raised them all through their childhood and took care of them when they were sick or in need?
It is a tough decision for anyone, but it doesn’t have to be.
In Part 2 of this article, we will look at the way care homes have changed over the years and show how a care home can be by far the best option for all concerned.