According to the charity Age UK, there are nearly 14.5 million people in the UK who are aged 60 or above; there are more pensioners in the country than there are children under 16, and this means that there’s also an increasing number of people who find themselves caring for an elderly parent or relative. There are many difficulties and pressures involved in this responsibility; but also a number of resources to help.
28,000 older people (65 and over) die from the effects of the cold every year in the UK alone. With rising energy bills, the cost of heating can often be a major concern for the elderly and their carers. The Winter Fuel Payment is available to anybody born on or before the 5 January 1952, and is a tax free lump sum to help pay for heating during the colder months. It is usually automatically granted if the elderly person receives the State Pension or another social security benefit, but if that is not the case then a claim must be made.
It’s currently estimated that 1.3 million people over 65, the large majority of whom live in the community, suffer from malnutrition. Sometimes this is due to financial concerns; in other cases, it’s simply because the elderly person struggles to get about and has difficulty preparing meals. For carers who are unable to be there full-time, the original “meals on wheels” service from the Royal Voluntary Service can be a great help, delivering hot meals to the elderly for immediate consumption, or frozen meals which can easily be prepared later.
Disability & Illness
Disabilities and illnesses often afflict the elderly, which can be very difficult to cope with for both the sufferer and the carer. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease affect many elderly people – it’s estimated that 62,000 people develop Alzheimer’s each year – and dementia is one of the leading causes of disability in later life. Some carers find that the pressures of dealing with a loved one who has these issues is simply too much, and make the difficult decision of sending them to a care home – in which case, Age UK offers advice on choosing a care home.
Other serious illnesses are also more common in elderly patients. Asbestos related diseases, like mesothelioma and malignant lung cancer for example, rarely affect the young as they take so many years for symptoms to develop. In the case of such industrial diseases, it is often possible to claim compensation through specialists like the Asbestos Advice Helpline, which can help to pay for hospice care and other medical expenses.
Whatever problems you face in caring for an elderly relative, it is wise to consult charities like Age UK and Carers UK to ensure that you have all the assistance and help you need.