When it comes time to take care of your elderly loved ones, you want to be sure that they are handled with care, love, and patience. While it may be stressful at times, you must also keep in mind that it is not easy for them to become dependent on you or others for their care. It is important that you become familiar with ways to provide them with the best care possible.
1. Visit Often
It is important to visit them often. They need the social interaction with you and you get the reassurance that they are safe, healthy and in general, doing well. During your visit, it's always best to check around the house for any issues that may need to be addressed such as 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 Their Medications
Be sure that they are appropriately supplied with 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 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 need to be a budgeted expense or it may be a resource that is available for a nominal fee or for free depending on if your loved one qualifies.
4. Make Modifications in Their Home
It is best to take a good look around their home and assess what may be a safety hazard. Some may be simple fixes while other modifications may be more involved. These include:
- Installing a ramp for wheelchairs or walkers.
- Installing handrails and grab bars at the toilet and shower.
- Installing a raised toilet.
- Testing (or installing) smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Checking the overall lighting in the house to make sure it is bright enough.
- Plugging in a few auto-sensor nightlights throughout the home so they are able to see if they wake up at night.
- Making sure there are non-skid mats or strips in the shower or bathtub or any other potential slippery areas of the house.
- Removing extra clutter that is lying around or furniture that is in the way.
- Removing small rugs.
- Making sure cables, cords and wires are safely tucked away to prevent potential falls.
5. Talk Openly About Their Finances
Most times your elderly loved ones are not comfortable or willing to talk about their finances. But you must try to have open discussions about their finances, especially if they live on a fixed income or there is a budget to be adhered to.
6. Take Care of the Important Paperwork
Make sure everything is up-to-date and completed when it comes to their important paperwork such as their will or power of attorney. It is not an easy conversation but it is essential. Once the task is done, 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 their declining cognitive abilities and reaction time while on the road. It is important to assess their driving abilities and when it does become an issue, offer other options that may help such as hiring a driver or using a delivery service for groceries.
8. Keep Them Active
It is important to keep your elderly loved one active and involved. Exercise is important to keep them healthy. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for the elderly to become isolated and 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 they may even want to venture out and make new friends. There are many resources in your community that offer things to do and places to go that 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. You can prepare meals in advance for them. You can check into Meals on Wheels to see if they qualify. There are also many other deliverable meal plan options that your loved one may enjoy. Some of these meal plans can even accommodate special requests such as diabetic meals.
10. Keep an Eye on Them
If you are somewhat tech savvy, you can install a camera or type of motion sensor to keep watch over them or that will alert you if something is wrong. A Life Alert system is another option but you must convince them to wear the alert button at all times.
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 and they will also need to be incorporated into the 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 Your Available Resources
There are many resources available for the elderly. These resources may be through the government or community-based. 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 healthy in order to take care of anyone else. Those who take care of their elders have been found to suffer from stress, anxiety, depression and musculoskeletal disorders. If possible, divide the responsibilities between you, your spouse and other family members. It is important that you don't forget to take breaks, get away a bit and enjoy your life as well.