At some stage in our lives, in all likelihood, we will have to care for elderly parents, especially as life expectancy continues to rise. 18% of the UK population is currently over the age of 65, according to the Office for National Statistics, and this figure is predicted to rise to 25% by 2046. As Britain’s ageing population continues to grow, pockets of over 65s and over 85s are appearing in England, Scotland and Wales, mostly in rural and isolated areas.
Age UK Stairlifts, provided by Handicare Accessibility Limited working in association with Age UK, has investigated which areas of the UK have the highest populations of over 65s by using a 2017 report by the ONS. The results revealed that five out of 10 areas with the highest proportion of over 65s are in the South West; 1 in 3 people in West Somerset are over the age of 65 and Christchurch in Dorset had the highest population of over 85s. Meanwhile eight out of 10 UK areas with the lowest proportion of over 65s are London boroughs; Tower Hamlets had the lowest percentage of over 85s as of 2016.
The figures revealed a stark difference between the populations of elderly people living in cities, which have greater accessibility, and in isolated rural areas with very limited accessibility. In the remote region of Cornwall, 1 in 4 people are currently over the age of 65, and this figure is expected to rise to almost 1 in 3 by 2036. With the closure of community hospitals in the area, and some secluded corners of the region being some 30 miles from the nearest major hospital, Britain’s ageing population is quickly becoming a serious issue.
Sadly I no longer have parents to care for as they have both passed however I know a lot more about caring for elderly parents now than I did before I took on this role. I wish someone could have told me all the helpful tips that I now know. That period of my life was like riding an emotional roller-coaster. The roles you have to play when looking after your elderly parents are numerous. Apart from the role of carer, you are still their child but you are also their parent i.e. you are in charge. It is a complete role reversal. You run their lives as a secretary would, possibly taking control of their money and making the decisions about their health needs. Often you are doing all of this with no knowledge of what is best.
When you were pregnant you probably read books on how to best care for your baby as you have never done it before however end of life is not written about in quite such an informative way. Naturally you would buy all the correct equipment and there would be endless articles advising you which product was the best. My own mother found having a bath very frightening as she knew she might not be able to get up and out of the bath. Also she was very worried about slipping in the bath. I needed to preserve her dignity and privacy and so someone suggested we purchase a walk-in bath. It was such a welcome addition to my mother’s life. Walk in baths and easy-access bathtubs are specially designed for the elderly and those with limited mobility, to put the ease and comfort back into bathing. It also meant that at bath time it did not need two of us present in case she fell.
Every case is individual but the overriding fact is that we are all doing our best in this minefield of old age care. It was a joy to hear that someone had realised that we need a forum as when it happens i.e. we have to care for an elderly parent, we have to learn very quickly whilst we have already started doing the job. Annabel James is the founder of Age Space, which is just such a forum giving helpful advice to carers. It covers every aspect of caring for the elderly with information on the different stages of care needs – elderly care services, care in the home, nursing homes and hospitals. There are forums on many topics including legal, financial, health and general.
I think the Life section would be so reassuring as there is information, amongst other topics, on scams, how to remember passwords (I need that one now!), avoiding family conflict. Honestly going on to the AgeSpace website is like entering a room full of like-minded people where everyone opens their arms and advises you how best to deal with any problem you may be having. It can be such a lonely business caring for elderly parents.
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