The Age UK Advice Line offers free, confidential advice to a wide range of callers, from older people, to carers and professionals. Our team receives lots of calls from families too, including adult children whose older parents are experiencing challenges associated with later life, such as illness and the need for additional care.
“Having somebody who understands the nightmare you’re going through, the problems you’re having with the [care] system and who can say you’re not alone in this - that really helps,” says Sharon, 67, a former administrator who cared for both of her parents.
These can be highly emotional and confusing situations, in which clear advice is essential and appreciated, especially during a continued cost of living crisis. With recent research from Age UK revealing that 6.6 million people aged between 40 and 60 (79%) worry they wouldn’t know how to support or care for an older parent, these essential calls will continue in the future.
Sharon first contacted the Age UK Advice Line in 2012, when her 82-year-old father, a previously fit former builder, suffered a massive stroke. He was left unable to speak or move, resulting in care needs too great for Sharon’s mum to deal with. The family decided to explore the option of a care home, but a social worker quickly told Sharon’s mum she’d have to sell her home in order to pay the fees for it. “Mum was crying and asking, ‘Where do I live?’” recalls Sharon. “All the social worker would say was, ‘You’re not our problem’.”
If I hadn’t made that call, my mum would have sold the house and ended up homeless.
The news understandably took a toll on Sharon – so much so that she collapsed on her way back from work. “I didn’t know what to do,” she says of the heartbreaking situation. “Thankfully someone in my local Age UK shop told me to ring the advice line.”
That call was the first step to receiving the legal advice that allowed Sharon to challenge the decision around paying for her dad’s care, which was subsequently funded by social services. “The [advice line] advisor really knew her stuff and quoted me all the acts, policy and wording to go back to them with. As soon as I did, everything fell into place. If I hadn’t made that call, my mum would have sold the house and ended up homeless.”
Sadly, Sharon’s father died in 2014, having never returned to his own home, his care needs proving so great that his house couldn’t accommodate the necessary equipment. “We wanted dad home because he was still dad – albeit a shell – but it was just not possible,” reflects Sharon. “It was awful knowing he would never come home, but like so many people, we had no choice.”
Sharon turned to Age UK for help once again two years ago, after her mother experienced a bleed on the brain that left her requiring constant care. These care needs necessitated the sale of the family home. But after five years of fees, the money began to run out. Sharon, who had a demanding, full-time job, understandably began to worry. “I was on my knees with stress.”
Age UK’s professional advice armed us to say, ‘This isn’t right’.
Social services then contacted Sharon, who was at a low ebb, to say she needed to sign a ‘deprivation of liberty’ form, which would allow them to relocate her mum to a care facility they were prepared to pay for. “It felt like they wanted me to sign her over like a stray dog.”
When Sharon called the advice line, fearing the move and a drop in quality of her mother’s care might prove a “death warrant”, she once again received help that made a life-changing difference. “Age UK’s professional advice armed us to say, ‘This isn’t right’, when we were down to the last dribble of money for mum’s care.”
Things went so down to the wire that Sharon found herself with only £50 left for her mother’s care. Thankfully, the next time she visited the care home, she was told that her mother’s care was going to be funded by social services. The sense of relief was enormous. “If it hadn’t been for the professional advice from Age UK, mum would have been evicted from her care home and I’d have had no say in it.”
Helping you through the minefield
Sharon’s mum died in January of this year, after five-and-a-half years in care, but Sharon continues to advocate the Age UK Advice Line – encouraging friends, family and networks on social media to contact us if they have similar issues regarding their parents.
“My parents were the centre of my world,” Sharon reflects, before focusing on the difference the advice line can and will make to the lives of other people experiencing similar issues. “It can help you through the minefield of the [care] system. It’s been an absolute lifesaver when I think of the toll it took on my mental and physical health.”
Know what to do
Finding answers to issues like arranging care and claiming benefits can be difficult, but Age UK can help you make informed decisions.