A practical guide to support aging parents at home
It’s surprising how fast time can fly, and how who were once active parents, can seem a shadow of themselves in a few years. Age creeps up on us silently. Little niggles in health start to appear, and before we know it, our once lively elders are starting to give us cause for concern where their health is concerned. As concerned family members, it is prudent to start planning for their needs early. A good plan would need to systematically address our elders’ concerns on issues such as safety, connectivity, mobility, health, support system and long-term care. Here are our top 5 tips to support aging parents at home:
Make your home safe
Elders are prone to accidents at home, due to their slowing reflexes and their declining states of physical fitness. Falls account for a number of accidents that elders are prone to. It is therefore necessary to make the home as safe as possible, with changes that will support the lifestyle of the elder. Amongst the key requirements for a safe environment are the provision of furniture which can act as supports for senior, and living spaces that are not over-cluttered. You may have to install railings and ramps as well. If feasible, it will make sense to have senior stay on the ground floor of the home, so access to higher floors is not called for.
Be on top of medication and meals
Keeping well is important for all of us, but with seniors, medication and meals assume significant importance. Ensure senior’s health plan is carefully adhered to. Take care to cue every family member in on the plan, so in the event of an emergency, the next steps of action are known. Take similar care for senior’s diet, as health at their age can be fickle and reverse swiftly. Regular visits to the family doctor or physicians are also a must, so senior is always in good health and cheer.
Whenever possible, try and improve your knowledge on caring for seniors by reading. Advances are taking place all the time, in this field as well. Take the case of Artificial Intelligence which is being put to increased use in health and about-the-home devices.
Design a keep-fit plan
Most aging parents, after a while, start to become immobile in the face of challenges they experience physically. In consultation with their physician or physiotherapist, design a simple exercise plan for senior, especially one that will involve the outdoors. There is nothing as rejuvenating or uplifting as a walk in the park. Try and appoint a family member to take up the responsibility of accompanying senior on the walk daily. Avoid the tendency of wanting to overachieve. Less is always more in their case. The fresh air will do wonders for their health and mood. And if medical advice warrants it, have a physiotherapist come in to help senior with the prescribed exercises, that need supervision.
Draw up a responsibility matrix
If you are the only family member, you may not have to do this. But most families with more than one sibling, need to sit down and take responsibility for senior’s care from the outset. This would include taking care of the expenses to care for senior. While the responsibility generally tends to fall on the shoulders of the sibling with whom senior resides, it may be a good idea to decide on a time-share basis of caring for senior. Bear in mind however, that elders generally eschew change and it may be prudent to revisit this decision of where senior will reside.
Keeping all family members in the loop about senior’s state of health and mind is also a good idea. Make a list of important contact numbers, taking care to include family members, doctors, dietitians, help lines etc and circulate this to all in the family. Where necessary, share it with trusted neighbors.
Seniors long for company, that tends to be elusive when the other members of the family have their own schedules. Set aside time daily for the family to be with senior. To boost their feeling of importance, it may be a good idea to have everyone gather for a story-telling session from the ‘days back then’ – something every senior loves to engage in.
Invest in professional home care
Caring for an aging parent is not an easy task, by any stretch of the imagination. In the face of relentless pressures in our own lives, the task can assume onerous proportions. Many families start with the presumption that they can manage, but quickly tire out, as senior care is a round-the-clock responsibility. Weighed against the cost of this, professional home care services serve as the perfect answer. Families benefit from professional services of their choosing in the fields of personal care, companionship, nursing and medication assistance, home maintenance and transportation. Home care services are widely preferred over nursing home occupancy, as seniors are wont to prefer their own environments, where they can age with a sense of independence, identity and dignity.
Supporting aging parents is an honor for children and grandchildren in the family. No longer able to manage their lives after investing themselves in earlier years, they turn naturally to their loved ones for support and assistance. Responsible for this task, we’d do well to plan for it carefully and methodically, so our aging parents are happy, contented and in good health.