There comes a time for many people when they need to start taking care of elderly loved ones. When that time arrives for your family, you want to be sure that the older adult is treated with respect, love, and patience. While the adjustment may be stressful for you, it's also important to remember that it is not easy for your loved one to become dependent on you or others for their care. It may be helpful to become familiar with different ways to provide the best care possible.
12 Ways to Care for An Older Adult Loved One
There are many different ways to help the older adult in your life stay safe and feel cared for. While it may seem overwhelming at first, extending care can help both of you feel more connected during this later stage of life.
1. Visit Often
Your loved one needs social interaction with you. And by visiting, you get the reassurance that they are safe, healthy, and doing well. During your visit, it's always best to check around their home for any issues that may need to be addressed. For instance, you may want to check the overall cleanliness of the house or if anything is broken that may need to be fixed. Also, do a routine check of their food supply, laundry, mail, and plants.
2. Check Medications
Be sure that your loved one has adequate supplies of their medications. It is important that all their prescriptions are filled and refilled as needed. If they are on a number of medications, it is best to buy a pill box organizer with compartments labeled with the days of the week as well as AM and PM doses. This can help simplify their medication-taking process. Also, if a new medication is prescribed, be sure to ask the doctor or pharmacist about potential side effects or possible interactions with current medications.
3. Hire Help
There may be a need to hire a helper, aide, or a different type of older adult caretaker. This could be someone who helps your loved one with their daily activities such as showering, errands, or housekeeping. If it isn't someone you know personally, then you should always check references or go through a licensed agency. This may be a fee that is included in your household budget or (depending on available resources) might be a service that is available for free or for a nominal fee.
4. Make Home Modifications
It is best to take a good look around the home and assess what may be a safety hazard when taking care of elderly adults. Some may be simple fixes while other modifications may be more involved. These may include:
- Checking the overall lighting in the house to make sure it is bright enough.
- Installing a raised toilet.
- Installing a ramp for wheelchairs or walkers.
- Installing handrails and grab bars at the toilet and shower.
- Making sure cables, cords, and wires are safely tucked away to prevent potential falls.
- Making sure there are non-skid mats or strips in the shower or bathtub or any other potentially slippery areas of the house.
- Plugging in a few auto-sensor nightlights throughout the home so they are able to see if they wake up at night.
- Removing extra clutter that is lying around or furniture that is in the way.
- Removing small rugs or ones that have raised edges that could potentially cause stumbles or catch on walkers/canes.
- Testing (or installing) smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
5. Talk About Finances
An older adult loved one may not be comfortable or willing to talk about their finances. But you must try to have open discussions about their financial needs and expenses, especially if they live on a fixed income or there is a budget to be adhered to.
6. Take Care of Paperwork
While you are taking care of an elderly loved one's personal needs in the present, you may also want to be sure that you are prepared for the future. Make sure everything is up-to-date and completed when it comes to their important paperwork. This may include discussing their will or deciding on power of attorney. These conversations can be challenging, but they are essential in order to ensure that your loved one is prepared. Once the task is complete, it will give you both peace of mind.
7. Watch for Driving Issues
There may come a time when your loved one may no longer be able to drive due to declines in their eyesight or reaction times. It is important to assess their driving abilities and when it does become an issue, offer other options that may helpful. For example, you might consider hiring a driver or using a delivery service for groceries.
8. Keep Them Active
It is important to keep older adults active and involved. Exercise is important when taking care of elderly loved ones in order to keep them healthy, and can even reduce their risk of falls. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for older individuals to become isolated, lonely, or even suffer from depression, especially if they have lost their spouse. It is important that they remain involved with their family and friends, or even venture out to make new connections. There may be resources in your community that offer activities to will help your loved one stay social and active.
9. Supply Healthy Meals
Your loved one may not have the ability or desire to cook for themselves. It is important that they are well fed in order to stay healthy. Even if your schedule doesn't allow you to cook meals regularly, you can prepare a few meals in advance. In addition, your loved one may qualify for assisted meal services, such as Meals on Wheels, depending on their situation, or prefer to sign up for a different deliverable meal plan. Some of these meal plans can even accommodate special requests such as meals for those with diabetes.
10. Use Tech Tools
There are some ways of using technology to your advantage when taking care of elderly loved ones. For example, you can install a camera or a motion sensor to keep watch over them when you are away. A camera system can help keep you informed about falls, how much they are moving, and provide other important information. There are also systems your older loved one can use in order to alert you if something is wrong. One option is a Life Alert system that provides a button your loved one can press in order to receive immediate help. Using this system will require you to convince your loved one to wear it at all times just in case an accident occurs.
11. Arrange a Schedule
It is best to try to arrange a schedule between you and other family members to help your elderly loved one when it comes to bathing, doctor appointments, errands, shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. If necessary, you may need to hire someone to help with some of those tasks to give you and other members of your family a break from the constant demands of their schedule. A schedule will not only help keep your life structured and organized, but it will help your loved one know what's on their agenda as well.
12. Utilize Available Resources
There are many resources available for the elderly. These resources may be through the government or community-based and may include food stipends, workout equipment, or services to get to doctor appointments. Do your research and see what your loved one qualifies for and how it could benefit them. You may be surprised at what's available.
Take Care of Yourself
You must remain both physically and mentally healthy in order to take care of anyone else. Those who are taking care of elderly loved ones have been found to experience higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression. If possible, divide the responsibilities between you, your spouse, other family members, and anyone else that you trust and that is able to lend a helping hand.
It is important that you don't forget to take breaks, get away a bit and enjoy your life as well. You may feel like you need to be there in order to take care of the older adult in your life, but you also need to show up for yourself and recognize your own needs.