It’s that shocking ‘whoa’ moment when you greet someone you haven’t seen in ages and realise how much they’ve aged – and new research predicts millions of Brits will experience a SLOMO, or ‘Suddenly Looking Older Moment’, when they see an elderly relative this Christmas.
The findings are published in Better At Home, a new report by The Live-in Care Hub (a not-for-profit coalition of leading providers of 24/7 ‘live-in’ care – a fast-growing alternative to residential care). They show just over one in five (20.6%) of us will be knocked for six this year by how dramatically a loved one has aged – and that a SLOMO usually happens at festive family gatherings due to lack of contact over the previous 11 months.
The Hub’s nationwide study also reveals that around nine out of 10 people (89.2%) say it’s ‘important’ to speak to elderly relatives regularly – and over three quarters (77.5%) think they should make WEEKLY contact, but fewer than half (45.7%) actually do this.
“It’s a sensation we all know, when we see a TV or film star from our youth for example and suddenly realise how old they appear, but a Christmas SLOMO, combined with these feelings of guilt, typically spark frantic family discussions on what on earth to do with parents or grandparents now it’s obvious they’re struggling to cope, either physically or mentally.
We tend to be flooded from late November onwards with calls from desperate people who have just seen, or started to think about, elderly relatives. They view the situation as a ticking time bomb and they’ve no idea how to defuse it.”
The research found the best place for older folk to live is the South West (55.5% are contacted once a week or more), while the worst is the East at just 39.3%.
Just over one in seven (14.9%) admit they’re worried about not being in contact with their elderly relatives in case something happens to them. This rises to a quarter (25.4%) of 16-24 year olds.
BUT sadly, more than one in 10 men (11%) say you should NEVER get in contact. And one in ten Brits (10.3%) admit they ONLY EVER see elderly relatives at Christmas. This rises to 15.9% in the South West.
Katherine Murphy is CEO of The Patients Association which campaigns for real improvements in health and social care across the UK.
“People are right to be concerned about older loved ones being left to fend for themselves as they become frail and vulnerable. They are at increased risk of falls – the most frequent and serious accident among older people, the worst of which result in serious injury, including hip fractures. In fact one in ten elderly people who fracture a hip will die within a month, and just under a third (30%) within a year.
BUT the good news is that, after the wake-up call of a SLOMO – or worse: an actual incident – excellent round-the-clock live-in care is a real alternative to residential and nursing care. It can banish the worry and guilt families feel AND help their elderly relatives live well.
The Live-In Care Hub’s Better At Home document now reports conclusively that live-in care clients experience a THIRD FEWER falls and JUST A QUARTER OF THE HIP FRACTURES of those in residential or nursing homes. ‘Live-in’ should be much better known. It doesn’t just make a massive difference to people’s lives; by keeping them safer it can also deliver massive cost savings to the NHS.
While measuring comparisons across thousands of ‘people years’, The Hub’s research also found out that ONE THIRD of those living in residential care DON’T EVER LEAVE THEIR HOMES and that rises to OVER HALF THOSE IN NURSING HOMES, compared with just 18 per cent of clients who have live-in care at home.”
It can sometimes be difficult for the entire family to connect when everyone gets together at Christmas, so researchers on behalf of The Live-In Care Hub also asked 300 of its experienced live-in carers, to identify the subjects most likely to stimulate conversation with elderly people.
When this question was included in the nationwide study, it found younger people (16-24 year olds) are the most likely to talk to elderly people about politics, with around one in three (31.6%) apparently keen to discuss subjects such as Brexit and US President-elect Donald Trump, compared to under a quarter of the overall population (23.3%). Regionally, the Royal Family is most likely to stimulate conversation in the North West (26.2%), and LEAST likely to stimulate conversation in Yorkshire (16.7%).
“To make it easier for everyone to get along and to help stimulate conversation with elderly people, there are certain talking points which have been part of their world for decades which they always enjoy discussing, such as TV programmes like Dad’s Army or entertainers like Vera Lynn – while other favourite conversational subjects can be constantly updated, like politics, food and drink and the Royal Family.
But the best way to stimulate conversation with an elderly person is to ask them about their memories – and a few well-placed direct questions can really get them talking and enjoying themselves this Christmas.”
For the 97% of people who want to be looked after in their own home (and their families) the website www.liveincarehub.co.uk is designed to be a vital information resource and explains all the basics of this real alternative to residential care and nursing homes.
With no rigid rules or timetables, each day is planned around the person or couple, giving a sense of independence and dignity for them and total peace of mind for their family. Clients with pets are also kept together, which provides physical and emotional benefits, especially for people with dementia.