Chris Moon Willems
Chris is a published author and leading expert in the field of elderly care who has appeared on TV and been interviewed on national and local radio. She gainedher expertise from specialising in care for older people during her training as a social worker and over 30 years of working in operational and senior management for the NHS and Social services.
I am delighted once again that she has contributed an article for “Caron Cares”.
This week June 10th-16th is National Carers week and this is a fitting article.
Orchestrating Care From A Distance
Caring, no matter where you live, is often long lasting and ever expanding. For the long-distance carer, what may begin as an occasional social phone call to share family news, can eventually turn into regular phone calls about health symptoms, arranging for groceries to be delivered and managing household bills. What starts, as a monthly trip to “check on Mum” may become a bigger project to move her to a care home nearer to where you live.
Sometimes your relative may ask for help; at the sudden start of an illness for example. However when you live far away, some detective work might be necessary to un cover the signs that they need more help.
Become a detective
It can be difficult to know when your elderly relative needs help from phone calls, as many older people are fiercely independent and often over estimate their abilities. If you are personally unable to visit to do the detective work, you could ask another relative, friend or neighbour to pay a visit on your behalf. You need to handle the situation sensitively as your relative might not want to admit that they are often too tired to cook an entire meal. However if you visit at the time they usually have their main meal, and ask. “What’s cooking?” you may get a sense that dinner is a bowl of cereal and be able to offer some help. With your relative’s permission, you might contact people who see your relative regularly – local relatives, friends, neighbours or a doctor for example – and ask them to drop you an email if they are concerned.
Make a longer visit
When you spend a longer visit, you can look for possible problem areas. It’s easier for your relative to disguise problems during a short phone call than during a longer personal visit. You can also make the most of your visit if you take time in advance to develop a list of potential problem areas you want to check out while you are there. Of course it may not be possible to do everything in one trip, but you can prioritise potentially dangerous situations and take care of those as soon as possible, then see afterwards if you can arrange for someone else to take care of the rest. As well as safety issues, try and determine your relative’s mood and general health. It is possible to confuse depression in older people (something that is under diagnosed) with normal ageing. If your relative is depressed, they may brighten up during your phone call, but find their cheerful mood difficult to maintain during a longer visit.
Find someone to help you
If your elderly loved one is eligible for support from Social Services keep in touch with the social worker or other professional involved in their care and support. If they are not eligible, look for independent support, for example, Relative Matters is an independent care consultancy that supports relatives with elderly loved ones who have to find and fund their own care in West Sussex and the South East.
Chris has written book “Relative Matters” the essential guide to finding your way around the care system.