The importance of independent living in old age

It can be a difficult time considering all the different types of care and support services that are available for our loved ones. I know the anguish that my family felt when determining the best care for my grandparents, during long illnesses. There are a lot of options to choose from and working out which your loved one would most benefit from can be unclear.

I believe that there is a hugely welcome trend of more people being cared for in their own homes. The familiar surroundings, personalised care and greater independence can all contribute to improving health. This improvement is aided by vast advances in new technology; small adaptations within people’s homes can make a real difference to their lives. Home adaptions can reduce the need for care homes and are proven to make people feel more secure, happier and their health improves. Locally, expert advice on practical solutions for independent living can be offered at the Independent Living Centre in Semington, where I took the Disabilities Minister 18 months ago.

Britain has a growing problem with social care. The number of people aged over 85 is expected to more than double in the next 15 years. This is particularly an issue in Wiltshire where we already have the second largest elderly population in the Country, coupled with the fastest growing over 80’s population. This puts an extraordinary strain on individuals, on families and on local services.

Last week I laid a foundation stone at a new retirement development in the centre of Chippenham which will soon open. The accommodation is not assisted living but independent, offering fully adapted accommodation complete with 24hr emergency alarms, walk in baths, grab rails and secure camera entry systems. It is vital to ensure security in retirement with the safeguards of protected pensions, additional health support and warm, modern homes for people to live in.

Care in the home can help people of all ages recover from surgery, illness, or injury in the comfort of their own home. Home health care is a particularly attractive option for older adults. It allows them to stay in their own home, delaying and sometimes eliminating the need to move into a nursing home or assisted living facility. It has the added benefit of freeing up beds in hospitals, reducing waiting times and reducing ‘bed-blocking’.

The most important aspect of homecare services is that loved ones get to remain in their own home. They will be able to continue to live as they are used to, surrounded by their own comforts, the neighbours they’ve known for years, where they hold cherished memories and where you and the family come to visit. This familiarity is especially important with conditions affecting memory loss like dementia.

We all want the care and support of our loved ones to be as individual as they are. I would like to see more proposals for schemes which help people remain in their homes for longer. For more information about what help might be available a good source of help is the Independent Living Centre (01380 871007 or visit www.ilc.org.uk)