We thought the first care home we found for Nan was absolutely perfect. It was a second home from home, a large double fronted end terrace, where the aroma of lamb dinners whafted through the door as you walked in. It was immaculately clean, the staff were friendly and there was such a calmness to it. That was, until Gladys arrived. You see, she was in the midst of her 'argumentative phase', although if you ask my Mum Lyn, she'd have told you it was a phase she'd been in for 80 odd years!
Many families I deal with, just like us find this phase the hardest to cope with. It's the one where an individual will use every physical and verbal power that they have left, to tell you that they are frustrated and unhappy. Although they don't know exactly where they do want to be, they know it isn't here. This is the point Nan was at, after booking her into what we thought, was the most perfect home for her. How wrong we were.
Looking back, they key is right there in that sentence: "what we thought". It was perfect for us but Nan had other ideas. Within the first week, she had literally shook the front door off its hinges and walked across one of Manchester's busiest roads, in her nightie and scarf and walked into the bank asking politely for her money. Luckily for us, the banking staff were wonderful. They made her a cup of tea and called the police, who very quickly matched her up with the frantic care home staff that were walking the streets looking for her. The home was far from perfect for Nan, as it couldn't keep her safe.
These next five points are what we've learned over the years and hopefully will help you choose the right care home for your loved one:
1) Location, Location, Location
The biggest mistake that can often be made is the location of the care home. If your relative needs care and they have always lived in the countryside, where it's quite and they can hear the birds & see the trees change colour over the seasons - whatever you do, don't put them in a busy care home, with it's own cafe, nestling in a suburban area! No matter how lovely it would be for you all to sit down in the cafe with a Latte. Think how it would be for them to live there and what they would miss.
2) Losing my Religion
"88% of the UK population aged 65 state their religion as Christian" [source: Age UK Later Life in the United Kingdom] To so many of our clients, their faith is very important to them and always has been. Why should this be any different just because they need care or have been diagnosed with dementia. On many occasions we have seen people who may not remember their own relatives names, come to life in church and sing beautifully to every hymm, not missing out one word. Faith gives people familiarity and comfort - no matter what your church, mosque or temple looks like.
If the care home you have found ticks every box except the religious one, then arrange with the family or an external care agency to take your relative to a regular service, if possible.
3) Safety First
We know from first hand experience how important it is to keep our loved ones safe in their most frustrated hours. When looking around a care home, ask them how they deal with unsettled residents and what their security measures are for keeping residents who wander safe from harm.
Ask them how they deal with erratic residents who may become violent. Whether or not your relative falls into this category, you need to know, incase they could be unwitting victims of unintended violence.
4) Girls just want to have fun, but so do the Guys!!
The latest statistics from Age UK say that there are almost three women to every man who lives in care. This is plain to see from the number of bingo nights and hairdressing salons I see in care homes these days. Which is great if you're a woman! Spare a thought if you are one of the hundreds of families looking for a care home for a relative who is a man! What is there for him to do?
We know of a care home near to us that has an old Morris Minor that encourages its gents to tinker to their hearts content and are driven to the pub on a Saturday to watch their favourite football team play. Hobbies do matter so make sure you ask what there is for the men to do. Boredom can lead to frustration which in turn, can turn to problematic behaviour, so don't be afraid to ask about events and activities.
5) Food Glorious Food!
As much as my generation loves variety and food from all over the world, neither of my grand-parents shared this enthusiasm and hated garlic with a passion. Don't forget to take into account what food is on offer at your care home of choice. A number of care homes I've been to, invite the families to join them for lunch so they can sample the food themselves and see how everyone is treated first hand.
If your relative is a fussy eater and likes only plain traditional food, then ask the care home if they can make sure this is known, as it can cause upset at meal times if they get it wrong. Something as simple as knowing that someone likes toast in the morning and not cereal, (like my lovely grand-dad) can make the world of difference.
If your relative has always liked a brandy before bed, or a gin & tonic at meal times, make sure that the care home allows alcohol and will allow it's consumption, in moderation of course.
I hope these tips have helped and by all means, if you have any others that can add to the list, please add them to the comments below and post a link to your blog - we'll make sure to share it!
About Liz Faye
Liz Faye is the Founder and Head of Care Services at Carepal Assist Limited
for further details go to: www.carepal.org
or call on 0800 6891000