Fulfilled living in later life
When is the right time to move into a care home?

Thursday 30th May 2024

When is the right time to move into a care home?

Circumstances can vary so much from individual to individual there’s no simple answer to this question. That said, there are some general principles that can be useful to bear in mind

Talking early

In a recent piece of research, Dr Kritika Samsi from King’s College London looked into the issue of the optimal time for a care home move, focusing on people with dementia. She found that when a move was considered earlier, those living with dementia felt they had a more active choice in the process and when they did eventually move to care home, they settled better. Actions such as going to have a look round, putting their name on a waiting list, booking for a respite stay or visiting a day centre at the care home were all stepping stones that helped inform a person’s understanding early in their dementia journey and made the move less daunting.

The benefits of social connection

Links have been established between social isolation and the development of dementia – for example, a study led by Professor Jianfeng Feng of Fudan University in Shanghai, published in the journal Neurology in 2022, found that social isolation was linked to a 26% increased risk of dementia. For those who are older and frailer and no longer able to maintain their usual social activities, a move to the social environment of a care home could help lower the risk of developing dementia. For those who are already living with dementia, this social environment could help to slow the progression of the condition.

Staying safe

Being unable to live safely and manage the basics of daily life are, of course, key considerations. Closely linked to this may be the ability of the person who is taking on caring responsibilities. Often the person doing the caring is an elderly spouse also with health conditions or a relative who may be juggling work or other family demands. This person may not always be on hand to ensure the person is safe and carer burn-out is a real risk, especially as needs increase.

A person-centred approach

Whenever the move takes place, for a move to be successful it’s important to find a care home that is person-centred in its approach to care.

At Pilgrims’ Friend Society, we follow our own bespoke Christian approach, The Way We Care, where each person is cherished as an individual and where there are opportunities to continue to flourish doing things they love.

Gillian's story

The story of Gillian, 85, told by her daughter Angela, shows what that can look like in practice:

“We knew Mum would have to move into a care home when before Christmas she fell at home and ended up in hospital. After she was discharged, I moved in with her for six weeks to look after her, with carers also coming in, but it was too much for me to

“The first care home we looked around didn’t feel right at all. It seemed very cramped. Then a member of staff from Luff House [Pilgrims’ Friend Society’s home in Walton-on-the-Naze] came to visit me and Mum. She was so friendly and kind. A friend of my eldest son’s wife works at Luff and I’d heard good things from friends too – they all said it was lovely. We decided to go for it, it just felt right.

“When Mum first moved to Luff, she was very withdrawn. It wasn’t just the experience of being in hospital that had affected her. She’d been diagnosed with dementia a few months before and had really lost her confidence. Having to give up driving was something she’d found especially hard. At that stage, she’s also moved into sheltered accommodation where she spent a lot of time on her own. I’d go and visit as much as I could but the rest of time she spent sitting on her own staring at the four walls.

Pilgrims Friend Luff House Gillian
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Pilgrims Friend Luffh House Gillian2
Pilgrims Friend Luffh House Gillian3

From the start, the staff at Luff put her at her ease. The Hummingbirds were always coming round to check she was okay. They also took the time to record Mum’s life history, finding out all about her sisters and her past – she’s lived in Walton all her life.

“I didn’t want Mum to be left in her room, and that wasn’t the case at all. They made a point of ensuring she came to be with other people and be a part of whatever was going on.

“Over the coming days and weeks I saw a big change in Mum. Each time I visited she seemed brighter and more ready to engage in conversation. It just got better and better. I follow Luff House on Facebook and it’s a joy to see all the activities she gets up to, one day baking, another day visiting the local church for a coffee morning, another day peeling the spuds...

I’ve worked in care homes myself and even I’ve been amazed by what they manage to achieve with people who can be quite far along the dementia journey.

“On one occasion I visited and Mum was excited to tell me about going to a big room and having lots of delicious things to eat. I discovered she’d been to a Women’s Breakfast with ladies from local churches.

“One day I got a wonderful surprise when I looked at the Facebook page and saw Mum doing some knitting. She’s loved knitting all her life, creating outfits for her grandchildren. Before Christmas, we’d reached a real low point when my brother suggested she do some knitting and she said she didn’t know how to do it anymore. To see her sitting as part of a little group of ladies with knitting needles in her hand and a big smile on her face was incredible.

“Mum’s definitely got her confidence back. Sometimes I call her up and she says she can’t talk for long because a fun activity is about to take place and she doesn’t want to miss it. I can honestly say, this is the best she’s been in years.”

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