On this day last year (2020), we first clapped eyes on our new home. We had driven through the rain and came across a signboard on the motorway that said something like “Tier 4 residents should stay home”.
When I first stepped indoors I saw the space beside the staircase, which the owners had reversed from the original position, and thought, “perfect place to put in a lift”. Unbeknown to me, the husband was thinking the same thing!
After a burglary in our previous home, I was really keen to move. We had also come to a point where we needed to think of moving while we still have the energy to form a new friendship network locally.
Either that or risk being moved into a nursing home when our physical and/or mental health fails (usually after a triggering episode like a fall or serious illness). When this happens, we will not have a choice of where we prefer to go. Someone else will be making that decision.
Dire, you think. But my research in ageing has led me to think the best way to age is to buy the biggest house we can afford, with the potential to convert downstairs rooms into ensuite bedrooms, and space for a live-in carer (in the house, in the garden, etc).
I watched how my mother-in-law had to pay more than £1000 a WEEK to share a room with another woman. That is £52,000+ a year, when the average wage was £26,000, and her carers were getting minimum wage which I would generously place at £17,000 a year at that time.
At £52,000+ a year she could have had THREE full-time carers at minimum wage.
I also know of family members of friends who pay not a single penny for their nursing home care. Conclusion: my mother-in-law was subsidising someone else “in the system”. It could well be the unfriendly woman sharing her room!
Meanwhile we had to sell her house, etc, etc, to pay for her stay.
Knowing that dementia runs in my husband’s family we decided that the best way to prepare was to put money aside (we don’t go on many holidays) and make plans for a live-in carer.
Actually we will need a second carer when the first is on leave, at weekends, etc, and we hope to find a regular stand-in carer when the time comes. (Or three households can share four carers.)
We might even offer an ensuite room to a good friend (or two), and through sharing resources, provide the best care for ourselves in our old age. Instead of three of us (each) paying £1000 a week.
Of course, we would need a trusted person to manage this arrangement. (We hope our son would live up to expectations!)
We are going to try “co-housing” if necessary, and we needed a property that could support that, with or without a lift put in. Until nursing homes are designed and managed to the standard that residents can be safe from physical, mental and financial abuse, that seems to be the best way out.
In this I have been inspired by the “Greenhouse Project” started by a wacky (some say “maverick”, or he could just be “inspirational”) doctor in USA where homes are built around a kitchen/living area, and residents are able to come and go as they pleased, eat what they like, when they like. A home, not an institution. And it will cost more than £52,000 a year by then!
So far, we have enjoyed our time in the new house. It is not perfect and lots of repairs and “improvements” have been made. Most of all, we are delighted that we are able to make new friends.
Our new church has been welcoming. Our neighbours have been welcoming. There is a bus three minutes’ walk from our front door that takes us to the heart of Oxfordshire every 20 minutes. The journey takes 40-50 minutes.
Despite all the doom and gloom of this year (and the last), we feel that we have been very blessed. I wish every blessing upon you this Christmas and in the new year. Peace on earth. Goodwill to ALL men and women.
NB: I’m happy to correspond with anyone who has anything to say about caring for the elderly. Is the current “social care system” sustainable? Does domiciliary care work? Etc.