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Do What You Can…Use What You Have, Start Where You Are

5 December 2017

Local News

Written byLisa Cable

Do What You Can…Use What You Have, Start Where You Are

We feel that this is a great philosophy at any age. But, it’s a great way to think about life as you get older and need more help.

There is often a mismatch between support people think they need, and what they actually want. Naturally all through life we all strive to be as independent as possible, and this certainly doesn’t change as you get older. So, we always try and focus the conversation we have with our clients on what they can do.

Do what you can…

So often we focus on what elderly people can’t do. We aim to try and change this dynamic and focus on the ‘can do’. Getting older can create many juxtapositions for people. I can do crosswords, but I can’t wash myself. I can’t remember your name, but I can enjoy time with you and be happy and laugh a lot.

If we focus too much on the negative, this can impact people’s emotions and can reduce their confidence. By focusing on the can do, we can create a much more positive outlook for people.

Using this approach we have adapted and improved the care for our clients:

“I can do a crossword”

We buy a daily paper for one of our clients and take it to her at lunchtime every time we visit. Our clients afternoon is spent doing the crossword and looking forward to what’s on TV later. This is such a great thing to do, as it also creates a talking point between carers and our client; our client absolutely loves watching the soaps!

“I can enjoy a day out, be happy and laugh a lot”

We take a number of our clients out to various community events, including taking them out to see a ‘musical cream tea’ production at the Queens Theatre.

Top tip: People, as a fundamental, may not remember what you say, but they do remember how you made them feel. Focusing on the positives can naturally change your relationship for the better.

Use what you have

There are many ways you can touch the lives of your older relatives and loved ones and ‘use what you have’ doesn’t necessarily mean spending lots of money.


If someone’s short-term memory is compromised, then focus on their longer-term memories. Talk to them about significant events they may remember and people, friends and relationships in the past.

Ask them questions about their lives and share these memories with the people that support them – you could even dig out some old family photographs and reminisce. This can really break the ice and encourage positive relationships. For example, just asking about a client’s husband or wife never fails to bring a smile and really brightens his or her day.


The internet and books can be a great way to understand what your parents or loved ones might be going through. Use these and the resources of organisations like ours to seek ways to support them.

Top tip: If you are worried for your families safety and concerned that your parents may wander then GPS trackers can help provide the reassurance that you know where they are at all times. Having wearable devices can work, but often people will remove these items. One of our clients has a device attached to her keys as she never goes out without her keys. This way her family can always understand her whereabouts and get in touch with her if she is in an unfamiliar or at an unexpected location.

Start where you are

This perhaps is the most difficult aspect of supporting your parents or loved ones. As we said, there is often a mismatch between where they think they are, where you think they are, and where they actually are.

This is human nature and I often recall my Nan telling me about her elderly neighbours that were at least 15 years younger than her!

By focusing on what your parents or loved ones can do, they will be reassured that you want them to remain as independent as possible. That said, you also need to encourage your parents to be realistic and practical about what they can’t do and where they need additional help.

An outsider can help mediate these conversations and ask difficult questions without the emotional attachments.

For us, a client assessment is really important to establish an initial plan. But this is just a starting point. We find it best for clients that might be reluctant, to start with little and build up. Once your parents and loved ones know their care team, they will be more willing to open up and talk about their challenges. We can then explore options of providing them additional support at any time.

Top Tip: Some support is better than no support. In our experience starting the relationship with a carer, based around something they enjoy can really yield positive results. For example, we started to take a client to a local club in the car… Then on the way back one day they asked about additional support we could put in place.

In summary

  • Do  what you can: we all like to be thought of in terms of what we can do, so use this to encourage positive relationships with your parents and loved ones.
  • Use what you’ve got: knowledge is power, use the resources and memories you have to better support and understand your parents and loved ones.
  • Start where you are: be realistic and practical about the care and support needed.


Lisa Cable

Lisa Cable

Director & Owner

An experienced business manager, Lisa oversees the operations and direction of Radfield Home Care Havering and Romford.

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