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Cutting work hours to help elderly parents

(11 Posts)
YodellingForJesus Sun 10-Apr-16 09:27:14

Hello, I have just discovered this board, and have been reading with great interest. My parents are 81 and 75, and have been very active and independent until recently. I'm worried that they are deteriorating though: Ddad has started to lose mobility very rapidly and can no longer walk more than a few yards. DM was a bit better until she fell (off a ladder!) and broke her femur. Now she is in hospital after an operation to fix her leg and will be unable to walk for some time. She was starting to look frail before then though: she's lost a lot of weight and was starting to get unsteady on her feet, so god knows why she thought it was a good idea to clamber up a ladder and clean the roof.

I live 100 miles away from them, DSis lives in another country, DB lives 5 minutes away but has his hands full being a single parent and working in a stressful job. Last time DM was in hospital, DB helped with day to day stuff (walking dog, heavy shopping etc), while DSis and I took turns to visit for a few days to clean the house, cook batches of food and generally be a helpful pair of hands.

My concern is that we will have to do this more and more frequently. I have two part time jobs (30 hours a week in total), one of which is flexible, in that I can usually rearrange my hours or swap with a colleague if I need to, the other of which has no flexibility: I have to be there or the facility can't open unless another member of staff is drafted in to cover, so I can only take time off in an emergency.

Recently I have been thinking about dropping the second job. It's a lovely job, but it pays a lot less than job 1, and the lack of flexibility has started to become a problem. It's not a job which offers any sort of career progression either, so I will never earn more than now. Job 1 has better prospects, but is for a local authority department which is facing massive cuts and the future is uncertain. I love that job though, and have been doing it a long time. It has a good pension scheme, and good benefits which job 2 doesn't offer.

The trouble is, although DH and I earn enough to get by, to pay the bills and take the occasional holiday, we aren't big earners, and me dropping two days a week would have an impact. DD1 is at universityin an expensive city so we give her a bit every month to help out, DD2 is at 6th form and and we will do the same for her if she goes into higher education.

DH and I are just starting to think about our future post-childcare and post-work, but I can see the next few years will be taken up with caring for parents as well. I feel like we are just at the start of a very long, tough journey and I want to be prepared.

Argh! Sorry for the long ramble.

Has anyone done similar? How do you manage to combine work, looking after your own household and care of parents from a distance? I don't want the burden of it to fall on DB just because he's living the nearest.

Needmoresleep Sun 10-Apr-16 10:47:49

A few thoughts:

1. Don't cut your hours in a Local Authority job. I managed to struggle through and was "rewarded" when they announced 40% job cuts achieved via an enhanced redundancy package. What I received in terms of both payment and pension would have been significanly less had I reduced my hours.

2. Look to see if there are any nice sheltered housing developments nearby. It would make you life easier, but also help maintain your parents independence for longer. If they were to move, now would be the time.

3. Try to have a discussion about their finances. Again now is the time to get POAs set up even if you dont use them yet. (What would have happened if your mum damaged her head not her leg.) Then depending:

a) if they have very little money , there is probably not a lot you can do other than see if your mum is entitled to any grants whilst she is immobile. (Others will have more ideas about what is available.)

b) if they have more, sufficient to take them just over care thresholds, it might be worth them refunding you at least expenses,. so that their total assets fall below these thresholds. Note any charges should be reasonable, otherwise you could be accused of deliberate deprivation of assets.

c) if they are quite wealthy see if they will pay you both expenses and equivalent to to make up for the loss of your second income. Obviously this can be beneficial as far as inheritance tax goes, and the POA document allows people to add that an attorney can charge for their time.

If your monther remains immobile for a longer spell you should look into Attendence Allowance for one and perhaps a Carers Allowance for the other. The good thing about these allowances is that once you are in receipt of them they can open the door to other things like Council Tax exemption. The money can be spent however they want.

Also get a social services assessment. Someone comes round and recommends handrails, bathroom adaptatons etc. It is often possible to get grants to purchase this equipment.

YodellingForJesus Sun 10-Apr-16 11:42:48

Thanks so much, that's really helpful. We've had conversations about moving house, but nothing's come of it yet. They've lived in the same house for 45 years so it's a huge step for them, but I think they are coming round to the idea.

I'd say they are in the middle income bracket. They both have modest occupational pensions as well as govt pensions, and their house is in an expensive area so will be worth a lot, though I suspect any money from the house will need to fund their care at some point.

How would you go about claiming expenses? It hadn't occurred to me that you could do that. Can they be offset against the value of their house, or would they have to pay directly? Something for me to look into, anyway.

Good point about the LA job. It's probably worth me hanging on even if redundancy is in the future. It might not even come to that if I am lucky.


QuerkyJo Sun 10-Apr-16 14:31:46

I think you need to take logical and practical steps to help your parents. The first question you must face, is 'Will they accept your help?'

Pride, independence, fear, an inability to judge their own fragility or sheer bloody mindedness will all work to stop you helping them. Add into that, the distance you live from them, and your commitment to your own family will severely restrict how much help you can give.

Next judge what sort of help will be the most use to them and the most acceptable. Financial help by applying for Attendence Allowance, PoA, finding out if they will allow you to be a signee on bank and saving accounts. Can you take over their utility bills, or have their post redirected to you.

What aids can they have to make their home safer. stair lifts, hand rail, carers, cleaners, bath hoist, safe steps with a hand rail. Local authority will guide you. Apply for a care line in case your dad has a fall or is to ill to call a GP. This is worn round the neck.

Age UK (might be called tapestry now) have leaflets and experience telephone staff who will help you. Ofcourse the best advice is here on the Elderly Parents thread. Practical ideas and hand holding from those who are In the same position.

Finally, think very carefully about jeopardising your own financial position. This situation with your parents may well last another 20 years in view of how many people are now living to 100.

thesandwich Sun 10-Apr-16 21:51:50

Great advice from all here. Being informed is a major help- finding out about what local support/ carers etc before needed is a great benefit. See if you can get them to accept cleaner/ gardeners as it establishes the principle of paid non family help.
And remember to put your and dps needs and dreams on the to do list too. You deserve it.

Needmoresleep Mon 11-Apr-16 08:51:30

I have ended up taking the lion's share of the support that DM needs, not least because DB has a very high-powered highly-paid job. When my father was dying I visited weekly and each trip probably cost about £100 in petrol and other expenses, which obviously added up. My mother is well off so when we came to discuss POA and the fact that I would need to take charge, part of my concern was to ensure my family did not become resentful. And missing out on holidays etc because of the need to dedicate part of our family budget towards costs incurred as a result of looking after my mother, plus giving up my job (the redundancy mentioned earlier - children, parents and a full time job were too much) would have caused resentment. As Querky says, you might be in this for the long haul. I don't actually charge for my time, though I can, but do charge expenses, and also charge a standard management fee for looking after rental property my mum owns. Part of the trick is to make sure the POA allows for different eventualities.

If you can it might be worth a family discussion about who does what (your DSis might be willing to come over to provide spells of respite at a point when more is required etc) and what might be reimbursed. I agree with suggestions about getting your parents used to outside help. And use the accident to talk about sheltered housing. Not only is it great to have the support on hand to use when needed, but sheltered is a lot cheaper than a care home, and ought to delay the need for them to go into a home, possibly separately.

purplevase Fri 22-Apr-16 12:45:43

Do not cut your hours. You need to plan for your own retirement and possible care needs.

If your parents are beginning to struggle you need to have some gentle conversations with them about (a) buying in help or (b) moving into sheltered accommodation or (c) both. The financial burden should not fall on you or your siblings.

I read recently about someone who had drawn down their pension to pay for a relative's care home fees (the relative was over 100) and I was really shocked that they felt they had to do that. So what sort of retirement will they now have?

And definitely get PoAs for both of them. I'm not sure you can charge for your time, (though I have an old-style enduring power so it may be different with the newer lasting powers) but you can claim expenses. I have control of my father's bank account so when I buy something for him I reimburse myself from his account, I just keep a list (although I don't keep receipts, perhaps I should but I don't want any more paperwork around the place). I'll also reclaim expenses related to selling his flat eg having to travel to the estate agent to show original ID.

OzzieFem Fri 22-Apr-16 13:36:36

Have you considered contacting a social worker for advice. I'm in Oz but we have a centre called The Independent Living Centre (no surprise there), that has a whole range of items that help people with mobility problems. They don't sell them, they just show people how to use the different aids available and let them know where they can be obtained.

We also have the Silver Chain service, they provide home aids, assist with showers, and also some cleaning hours per week. Some councils will also provide buses to take elderly people to the shops once a week.

What about an electronic Gopher? It may be called a scooter in UK. That way they can get down to the shops by themselves. Lots of elderly people over here use them.

You need to make sure you use all the available resources you can, to stop yourself from being burned out.

SunnyMayDay Thu 26-May-16 23:07:36

Instead of batch cooking, can you buy ready meals, get delivered online ?

I assume you need to work out what essentials they need and what "nice to have" they need for daily life to continue

Can you visit on set days per week or once a week ?

Giving up your job is a big decision, because it affects you and the rest of your family. As other people mentioned caring could continue for 10+ years

If your DM will be unable to walk when she returns home are there stairs ?
Sleeping, cooking, bathroom arrangements ?

RosalindW Fri 29-Jul-16 16:15:39

So my elderly parents both have degrees of dementia, mom more advanced than dad and currently have live in full time carers. The trouble is the carers provide the minimum requirements, e.g. food, washing clothes and encourage personal hygiene but they don't take them anywhere (one doesnt drive) and their quality of life isnt great. I have been considering giving up work (I am 55 now) and taking care of them Mon-Friday day times and then employing someone responsible to sleep overnight to ensure they are safe. The problem is that this is extremely expensive. They are paying £1200 for full time 24/7 care, but if we reduced this to night cover only (sleeping) the rates are £14 per hour! Does anyone have any contacts/suggestions please for a less expensive alternative? Many thanks,

whataboutbob Fri 29-Jul-16 17:10:48

Rosalind my 1st thought is £1200 is actually very cheap, my dad was getting 8am to 6pm (before going into a care home) and it was costing between £4000 and £5000pm. I don't really understand your post (apologies) it seems if you downsize from full time to night only the price goes up hugely?
Yodeling, not sure if this is any help but I work for the NHS and have taken a total of 6 months unpaid leave to help care for/ set up care for my Dad (and to be honest, also to have a break and help me cope with it all). i don't regret it, even though of course I had to make a financial sacrifice. Having that break gave me the space to trouble shoot the million and one things I needed to sort when Dad's dementia progressed.

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