It is now becoming increasingly widely recognised that where medical conditions allow, older people will have a better life by continuing to live in their own home for as long as possible.
In some situations care in a nursing home is the only option available, but where staying in their own home is viable, it usually offers the chance of a longer, more active life.
The life expectancy of someone who has moved into a care home is significantly reduced compared with that of a person who lives in their own home.
This can be partly attributed to medical issues which may have led to the person moving into a care home, and of course living in a care home also increases exposure to illness, with any infectious illness of another resident potentially putting others at risk.
However, research has shown that higher mortality rates are largely due to the huge change which a person goes through when moving into residential care.
One of the key factors in reducing lifespan can be the loss of motivation to keep going. Moving house is one of the most stressful events in anyone’s life at any age, but moving into a care home has additional issues.
The move can mean being completely uprooted from a very established routine. The circle of neighbours and friends the person has lived among are suddenly no longer in the immediate area, and almost everything familiar is gone.
It can also be accompanied by a loss of purpose, with all responsibility for personal care suddenly handed over to the care home.
The current focus for social services is on helping people to stay active and independent in their own homes for as long as possible, with people encouraged to help choose any services they need for care at home.
A range of adaptations can be made to the home to make it suitable for an older person for longer, such as a walk in shower or a stairlift. A personal alarm can also offer the reassurance for the person and their relatives, that help can be called at any time, day or night.
Some home alterations may seem costly, but grants are available in some circumstances. An occupational therapist will be able to give information on what financial support is available.
Individual circumstances vary enormously, but for many older people, the benefits of staying at home far outweigh the inconvenience of having to arrange some home care and having some alterations made to the home.