Finding care for one elderly parent is daunting enough; finding a home that can keep both parents together while meeting their individual needs is an even bigger challenge — one faced by sisters Helen and Clare.
SoGlos spoke to them about how they found the perfect place for their parents at Lilian Faithfull Care's Faithfull House in Cheltenham — and the advice they'd give to others in a similar situation.
Tell us a bit about your situation.
We live over 100 miles away from our parents, who were living independently in Cheltenham. We were going up every two or three weeks to shop and clean, keeping an eye on them, but it was becoming obvious that our parents would soon need more support.
We did start to think about home carers. People often focus on staying in their own home and keeping their independence, but the reality is, unless you have live-in care, a home carer will come in for only brief visits.
What made you consider looking for a care home for your parents?
Dad had a fall in 2020 and was then in Gloucester Royal — and they were fantastic — but it became apparent he would need extra support when he came out and mum couldn’t be on her own.
Your parents first came to Faithfull House for respite care, tell us about that experience.
Respite care is such a good way for everyone to try it out and get comfortable. Faithfull House made that really simple, it was still treated as if it was a full admission and we talked about things like bringing their own furniture.
Faithfull House were very respectful of our parents' independence. When they first got to Faithfull House they wanted a bit of independence, my mum would still make herself a coffee, and that was all possible. Over time they’ve gradually accepted more help. The care adapts — it's been quite seamless.
Why did you choose Faithfull House for your parents' long-term care, after that initial respite stay?
Some places have a limit to the amount of personal care per day. Our mum and dad have needed more and more care since they’ve been at Faithfull House. You need to be clear about what happens when things progress, will they be able to stay here, whether there is dementia care, end of life care — all of these things are important.
There is a real benefit of going somewhere which has the scale and the structure to provide everything you need. Faithfull House is big enough to have all the infrastructure but not so big that it’s impersonal.
You’ve got a strong management team, team leaders, carers, receptionists, people to organise the activities, a brilliant kitchen, a beautiful garden, a physio, a hairdresser… Another thing for us is that when they need to go to appointments, someone will go with them — I’m not sure that was even on our checklist!
The fact that Faithfull House has its own wheelchair friendly transport is useful — that may not be something you think about. We also like that Faithfull House is run by a charity rather than a commercial business accountable to its shareholders.
What is your relationship with Faithfull House's staff like?
All the staff are wonderful, everyone is invested in making sure our parents have what they need which is even more important as they need increasing amounts of support. For example, the catering staff will come in and make sure that the trays are turned around the right way so dad can reach everything. The maintenance team come in to check whether lightbulbs need changing.
We feel we know the staff; we are always happy to see a new face, but it is nice to go back after all this time and see familiar staff. We have even got to know the laundry lady! She lets us know when our parents need new items of clothing. It’s everybody, they are all carers, in the nicest possible way.
When choosing a home, we advise to find out as much as you can about the communications — who you will speak to.
If they’ve been to an appointment, one of the carers will ring us up and talk us through it. You can imagine some homes where communication isn’t so structured.
I came off Facebook years ago, but I’ve come back on it purely to follow Lilian Faithfull Care. I love looking through all the activities; it just gives you a window on their world. I love that visibility.
Were there any practical matters you had to consider when arranging care for your parents?
We couldn’t have managed all of this if we didn’t have power of attorney. Thankfully, we had it for financial and medical. It was such a massive relief. I would say to anyone, have those difficult conversations now.
The staff have also talked us through difficult issues such as DNRs. That’s another conversation to try and have early doors, don’t leave it until they aren’t understanding things. It can change very quickly from having completely normal conversations to when they are hard of hearing or comprehension has disappeared. Don’t leave it too late.
Is there any other advice you would give to people in a similar situation to your own?
Get those memories down! I have recorded our parents talking through their photo albums. We have also been careful to keep letters and their travel diaries safe.
We just keep having these conversations where we say ‘oh my goodness, we are so lucky mum and dad are at Faithfull House’ because a lot of these things weren’t in our mind when they first went there.
The list of things that we have to be grateful for keeps on growing. We could not ask for a better home or more dedicated staff — they feel like extended family now.