Many children will eventually need to provide care for their parents. Planning ahead can help solve some of the issues before the situation becomes a last-minute emergency (for example caused by sudden illness or injury). Use technology, make the home safe for elderly people and anticipate the expenses of providing care in advance.
Be sure that you’re ready for an emergency. This includes having an emergency plan in place, posting emergency phone numbers, and preparing a home first aid kit.
There are many technologies available which can help keep track of the elderly, make sure that they are moving around and thus safe and are taking their medications. For example there are GPS trackers and medicine boxes that light up when medicines need to be taken. This helps allow them to stay in their homes for longer.
Make the home safer by installing anti-scald devices to protect sensitive older skin, carbon monoxide detectors, special smoke detectors with strobe lights or vibration to wake up the elderly (many elderly cannot hear conventional smoke detectors) and grab bars in showers and near toilets.
Caring for the elderly can be quite expensive. Do your research in advance and explore your options and potential grants or programs that might benefit your loved one.
Keep your loved one active.
Exercise can help protect older people from disease and reduce their functional age by 10 or 15 years. It can even result in big health benefits for those who have been sedentary for many years. It can delay the need for care and keep them away from disease for longer.
It is recommended that elderly people do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (running, swimming, walking, biking) five times per week. Those who do more intense activities where the heart rate is significantly elevated and breathing is heavier should exercise a minimum of 20 minutes per day three days a week. Weight-strengthening exercises (using free weights, resistance bands or body weight) should be performed two or three times per week on non-consecutive days. They should also perform exercises for flexibility (stretching, yoga, tai chi) for at least 10 mins every day.
Those who are unable to exercise independently, or at such intensity, can still benefit from being active. Passive Range of Motion (POM) exercises can help elderly people maintain joint mobility, for example.
It’s also important to have older people change positions frequently – this will prevent skin breakdown and painful ulcers, which are susceptible to infection. Using devices like donut or egg crate cushions on chairs and beds can be helpful in this.
Keep an eye on their physical and mental health.
If he/she has pains or medical issues, tell them to see (or take them) to a doctor. If the pains/medical issues are severe enough, it is imperative that you call a hospital and see what they can do for him/her right away.
Watch for signs of weakness, extra forgetfulness, lack of direction or other unsteadiness.
Mental health is often overlooked but is an important part of caring for an elderly person. Keep an eye out for signs of depression such as lack of interest, listlessness or deep feelings of sadness or anger. This can be a very difficult time for elderly people so make sure to monitor their mental well-being as well as their physical health.
Speak to your loved one’s pharmacist.
The elderly may be prescribed different drugs by different doctors and only the pharmacist will know all the medications your loved one is taking. Make friends with them and speak to them regarding possible side effects and interactions.
Get help with driving.
The idea of stopping driving can cause a lot of anger and resentment for an elderly person. Remember that being able to drive is an important component of maintaining independence and it can be difficult to accept that they are no longer fit.
Sometimes classes are offered for elderly drivers that may result in car insurance discounts.
There are tools that aid the elderly with driving, such as by assisting an arthritic wrist in turning the key in the ignition.
If it is really unsafe and your loved one continues to resist then get the help of their doctor or the DMV to prevent them from driving.
Keep them mobile using public transport or a three-wheeled bicycle so that they can maintain their sense of freedom and independence.
Your area might also offer transit alternatives. Some communities and non-profit organizations offer programs like volunteer driving pools, paratransit services, and escort services that can be planned ahead and provide door-to-door or curb-to-curb transport. Taxis are another option.
Speak to your loved one regarding their finances and possible insurance plans for long-term care. Sometimes additional benefits can be applied for to reduce heating bills or the cost of prescription medicine and these should be identified if they exist. It might be better to downsize into an affordable senior-friendly condo if they wish to remain in their own home.
Discuss legal issues.
Find out about their power of attorney, [Write A Will | will], and health care proxy documents. These will sort out who can make medical decisions and financial decisions for your loved one if there is an emergency or they are incapacitated in some way.
If your loved one has not obtained these documents yet, help him or her to create them.
Determine what sort of care your loved one wants and doesn’t want if they become unable to speak or communicate. Legal documents called “advance directives” specify this – including whether or not to use dialysis and breathing machines, tube feeding, or to resuscitate in case of cardiac arrest.
The elderly are particularly vulnerable to scams so make sure to discuss these and protect them. Get a credit report check at least once a year to make sure no one has stolen his or her identity.
Find shared meals or make food for them.
Sometimes senior centres will organize dinners, which can include transportation, and these are a great way for your loved one to meet with others and share a meal. Oftentimes the elderly lose interest in food, particularly if they are depressed, and these shared meals can make eating more enjoyable.
Delivery services can also help elderly who experience difficulty with preparing their own food.
Consider a home caregiver to help the elderly person.
This will solve the physical difficulties of caring for your loved one. A home caregiver can help the person accomplish whatever they need and take a lot of the burden off of the family members. They can also help the elderly person maintain some independence by keeping them in their homes.
Sometimes government aid can help offset some of these expenses. Look into your options and speak to your local agency on aging if there is one.
If they do not yet need a home caregiver or the home caregiver cannot perform these tasks, help them around the house. For example, help them with chores such as cleaning, laundry or gardening.
Consider a senior home or centre.
Sometimes a home caregiver is not possible, for example if the elderly person requires too much assistance or it is not affordable. A senior home will provide for and take care of your loved one.
Sometimes they organize activities and have trained medical personnel keeping an eye on the elderly, making them safer and happier.
Do not feel ashamed or guilty if you can no longer care for your loved one in their home or at your home. Sometimes circumstances make it impossible or even unsafe to care for the elderly at home, and this is not your fault.
Respect the elderly person.
Always be respectful to the elderly. Even though they have aged and may be losing their health, they are still people with emotions and ideas. Don’t judge them by their physical condition. Aging is simply a part of the natural cycle: you are born, you’re a kid, you grown into your teen years, adult years, and one day you will be elderly too. Have respect for them and their lives.
Don’t swear or say words which they may find inappropriate; having grown up in a different time, they may not take this lightly.
Encourage them to volunteer.
A recent study found that elderly people who volunteer are happier and healthier. This is especially true for elderly people who have chronic conditions. The feelings of being valued and needed as a volunteer can greatly improve the mental well-being and thus health of your loved one.
The benefits can be seen with as few as 2-3 hours per week of volunteering.
Bring some of their personal belongings with them.
If they are moving to a senior center or into your home, bring some of their physical home with them. This will make them feel more comfortable and at home in their new surroundings and help them to cope with the big changes taking place for them.
Try to keep things as unchanged as possible.
Many elderly people are uncomfortable and nervous about change, especially when they are moving out of their home. Try to keep everything as stable as possible. For example, you might bring their pet in with you if bringing your loved one home or bring their pet to the senior centre with them if it is permitted.