Recently released figures from the Office of National Statistics show something really quite remarkable: the percentage of elderly people in care is declining sharply, despite our aging population.
Care Within the Family is on the Rise
Over the last decade, the overall number of elderly people in care has risen by just over 1000 - but during that same time period, this population has risen by a million.
Among some demographics, notably pensioners aged between 75 and 84, there has been a significant fall in care home take up. Even among the most vulnerable group, including those aged over 85 and the disabled elderly, numbers going into care homes have risen only marginally compared to the percentage population increase.
Clearly more and more families are taking on the care of their elderly relatives themselves. The spiralling cost of care is one solid reason for this; another less quantifiable but undoubtedly present factor is the fear of nursing home neglect or abuse.
Carers' Rights and Support
For families who do care for elderly loved ones at home, particularly those who are disabled or have complex health needs, the strain can be enormous.
Families are impacted financially if one adult has to give up work in order to become a carer - and the emotional rollercoaster of caring for an aging parent can lead to depression and mental health issues for carers too.
The best advice for those contemplating such a course of action is to be fully informed of your rights as a carer.
The Care Act 2014, which came into force in April this year, ensures that local authorities must offer much more support to carers than was previously the case - but most of this support depends on the carer being knowledgeable enough to ask for it.
Accessing the Services and Benefits You Need
Visit the Citizens' Advice Bureau for up to date information on benefits your elderly relative can claim to help with their care, and which benefits you personally might be able to obtain.
Inform your GP that you're a carer - this will enable them to properly advise you, and will give you easier access to certain services such as home visits.
Arranging care for an elderly loved one is never easy; if you do choose to care for them yourself, help is available - you just have to know where to look.