Having one parent in a care home can be heartbreaking. Having two in care at the same time can be devastating, and the toll it takes on a son or daughter is immense.
When a parent needs care, especially one with dementia, the family roles are often reversed. The child is thrown into the role of parent, and the actual parent, now dependent, effectively becomes the ‘child’.
Having to act as a power of attorney can bring even greater pressure for the son or daughter, as the parent may resist all attempts to allow others to manage their affairs – especially when it’s their children!
When two parents are in care, the son or daughter has not only lost the parents he or she has always known, but there’s often no longer any parent to talk things through with. It’s a double whammy.
Here are 6 ways to ease the load if you have two parents in care…
- Allow the ‘carer’ parent to keep some control
Very often one parent will have been the main carer for the other, despite the fact that their own health has been deteriorating. When both finally have to go into full time care, it’s easy for the family to make the mistake of taking away all responsibility and control from the former ‘carer’ parent.Being a carer may have become part of their identity, and so by removing that role you risk stripping them even further of their sense of purpose and value. So, identify things they can actually still do for their spouse, however small, and talk to the care staff to help them understand why this is important to maintain. From the staff’s point of view, you ‘carer’ parent is likely to be easier to look after if they feel useful and valued.
- Consider separating their savings and financial assets where possible
Always take financial advice before you do this though. If you’re acting as power of attorney for two parents in care, and you start paying for that care out of a joint pot of money, it’s harder to see when one of your parents reaches the capital threshold for local authority funding.For example, if your father has more savings than your mother, by separating their money at the outset you can more easily see when your mother is about to reach that threshold. By continuing to pay from the joint pot you may not notice the point at which your father’s money is effectively paying for your mother’s care.If this has already happened to you, write to the local authority highlighting when your parent reached the threshold and how much you believe has been overpaid.
- Allow friends to be a new supportive family for you
Tell them what you’re going through. Allow them to help. Also, cry, wail and thump cushions. Let it out. Although it may not sound like it, this can be a good way to vent frustration – and grief.
- Make sure the care system is treating each of your parents as individuals
… but make sure the care home acknowledges their status as a couple (if appropriate). Many people find they lose most of their privacy in a care home, and even the intimacy of holding hands can be more difficult.
- Learn from one parent – and apply it to the other?
Having a parent in care is a learning experience. You’re often thrown in at the deep end trying to understand how things work and challenge things that don’t seem right. When you have two parents in care the prospect can seem utterly daunting – and of course no one gets any practice beforehand.But what you learn in one parent’s case you can apply to the other – and this can be especially useful when it comes to pursuing NHS Continuing Care funding.
- Look after yourself
Eat healthy food. Drink lots of water. Get lots of sleep. Exercise. That can sound like a tall order when you’re in a very dark place emotionally, but it will help sustain you – and allow you to perhaps spend more meaningful time with your parents, for the time they have left.