Full time residential care seemed the only option for Heather, who had a history of strokes and falls, but the decision caused something of a storm for inhabitants of the long running soap. And the media response to the fictional storyline raised the question of how we deal with similar situations in real life and crucially, what options are available to those who find themselves unable to cope due to problems caused by health or age.
“One of the most difficult situations faced by families is having to deal with a crisis situation where a relative is no longer able to cope in their current circumstances,” comments Annabel Kay a solicitor at leading Midlands law firm Higgs & Sons.
“Where there are no prior plans in place, a care home may be seen as the first port of call as it provides a place of safety and support for the individual concerned. But it is important to realise care homes represent just one option for families and that there are many more to consider before making a final choice.”
Annabel, a specialist who advises clients on a range of matters including wills, powers of attorney, care home fees planning and older client matters generally, is a member of Solicitors for the Elderly. She also sits on the expert panel for the Association of Dementia Studies at Worcester University.
In her experience, advance planning is the key to a successful outcome.
“Ideally families should be looking to plan ahead for such circumstance so that the options are agreed by all concerned in advance. Of course that is not always possible, but even where a crisis situation occurs it is best to seek objective advice in order to identify options and decide on which to take.”
Annabel and her team have supported many families through the real life equivalent of the one faced by Heather and her family, and she believes the Archers storyline didn’t highlight some of the options which may have enabled the character to continue living in her own home.
“Of course The Archers is a fictional situation; in real life we would have sought to advise them to consider other options such as adapting her own home to cope with her changing circumstances, or downsizing to a smaller, more manageable home, perhaps sheltered accommodation or retirement villages for example?
“If once everything has been considered, a care home is seen as the best option, then help and guidance should still be sought to ensure that any care package best meets the needs of the individual concerned – now and in the future,” advises Annabel.
“This is a highly emotive issue, but one which is going to affect more and more of us as the population continues to age. Fortunately for Heather, she has been invited to live with her family at Brookfield, but not all stories have such a happy ending.
“At Higgs & Sons we are happy to provide specialist, objective advice on the options available to families so that they can rest assured if a situation does occur, measures are in place that have been agreed as the best option to meet the changing needs of loved ones at each new stage of their lives.”