They say that “old is gold.” This could be taken to mean that our elderly ones are treasures. When we are able to see this and recognize their value, then we will realize the need to take good care of them. Caring for them involves ensuring their physical, mental, emotional and social well-being. Here are eight ways in which we can help make this happen for them.
Make Appropriate Living Arrangements for Them
The first step to take when it comes to helping the elderly would be to find out if they want your help in the first place and if they are comfortable with the kind of interventions that you intend to implement in their lives.
For instance, when it comes to their living arrangements, do they prefer to stay at home, move in with you or any other relative, or to check into a nursing home or senior community? Will they appreciate assisted living? Nobody likes having things imposed on them: not children, not the elderly, and let’s face it, not even you. Let them have their preference.
Of course, other factors will come into play here, like resources that are available for their care and the specific needs of the elders. Their health needs should be the greatest influencer of this decision but always remember to keep their best interests at heart.
Make any Necessary Living Adjustments for Them
If your elders choose to stay at home, something that is referred to as “aging in place”, you will need to work at making the home ‘elder friendly’. You should make sure that their surroundings are both safe and healthy. This may entail making some improvements or adjustments in the home.
You can install a walk-in shower in place of a bathtub, as well as have non-skid mats, strips or pads in slippery areas like the shower and the toilet.
You can also place kitchen cabinets and appliances in such a way that they will not have to bend too much when navigating through the kitchen. Make sure that all essential items are within easy reach.
Grab bars should be placed in strategic locations around the house, as well as installing support bars or buying furniture that is designed in such a way as to support mobility.
Ensure that cables and wires are safely placed away. Night lights can be installed in strategic areas so that the house is well lit and movement made easy at night.
The adjustments that can be made are infinite. Analyze the house and make it fit for your aging loved one.
Take Care of Their Memory
Yes, it is important to take care of an elderly one’s environment. But it is just as important to take care of their mental health. Many elderly people experience short-term memory lapses. One way in which you can help in this area is by creating a scrapbook for them, filled with tagged photos of people, places and things that have featured in their lives. Another way is through art and music therapy. There are senior homes that offer these kinds of memory care facilities.
Be There for Them
Even if you do choose to employ the services of caregivers for your elderly loved ones, it is important for you to be present with them. Try to maintain frequent communication with them because it is with you that they have a meaningful connection with and not the caregiver. Remember that their emotional well-being is also part of our concern.
Visit them often if they are not living with you. Granted, technology helps us to stay connected but not even video calls can compare to actually meeting each other in person. Take them out to different places, like you can go shopping or to the movies, for example, depending on what they enjoy.
You can also fit them into your hectic schedule by pulling them into your daily activities. Your presence will be all the more appreciated if one of your elderly loved ones has suffered a loss. As a person gets older, what they need or desire more than any other thing is to have a company. Keeping in touch with them also helps you to monitor them. You will be able to keep track of how they are doing and what is going on with them.
When you visit, you will be able to notice things that you may not be able to pick up over the phone. For example, you may notice some fresh bruises on them which would be an indicator that they may have had a fall or something to that effect. Your visits also provide a chance for you to analyze their living space and see what improvement projects need to be carried out or any household chores that have been left undone.
Things like uneven floors, unlit corridors, hallways and stairs are some of the small issues you can easily sort out. If you cannot visit as often as you would like, get somebody, like good neighbors, to drop in on them very regularly and keep you updated.
Make Sure That All Their ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) Are Met
Are they able to feed, bathe, dress and groom themselves? Are they able to go to the toilet by themselves? How is their functional mobility? If they are having some trouble in any of the aforementioned, then you will need to find a way to help them out in that particular problem area. The options are many. Analyze the situation and pick out the best.
Make Sure That All Their IADLs (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living) Are Met
IADLs basically include all the house chores that need to be performed around the house for example, cooking, cleaning, running errands, doing the shopping, paying bills, taking medication and so on. If they are not able to do these things for themselves, then you need to arrange for help.
Just a word of caution: You may need to exercise greater care when it comes to helping them with their medication if they are taking any. Make sure that they do not mix them up or forget to take them. You can label the medicines and store them in different compartments or drawers to avoid mix-ups. You can also send them reminders when they are supposed to take any medicine.
Encourage Them to Remain Active
Getting older should not suck the life out of a person. Life does go on. Encourage them to remain active both physically and socially. It will be good for their health. Encourage them to exercise regularly, for example, by getting out of the house and taking walks. They should not shut themselves indoors all day, every day. Isolating themselves in this money could lead to depression and other ailments.
Make arrangements for them to have social interactions especially with like-minded peers. Getting together regularly with others who are in similar circumstances is always a booster. Loneliness, isolation and boredom are three major things that plague our elderly loved ones. You could also enroll them in adult day care programs where they will be able to socialize.
Encourage them to attend social gatherings and events for older people. They can visit clubs or join hobby groups. Prod them to keep going to church and participate in the activities therein. Many of our elders at this particular phase in life mostly just want to give back to society. Most of them would love to have opportunities to reach out and help others. They have a lot to give. They have seen a lot and have gained experience in many areas. They have a lot of wisdom to pass on. It has been said that one of the best classrooms in life is at the feet of a wise elder. Help them therefore to volunteer in programs where they can be useful.
Offer Financial Assistance and Management
Review your elders’ net worth and establish oversight of their accounts. Keep track of all their bills and make sure that they are all paid. Get their credit cards checked regularly to ensure that they have not landed themselves into any scam. Caring for the elderly will also cost you financially (and the costs can be high) so take financial inventory and use this information to help determine how much is going to come out of your pocket, and your siblings’ pockets if possible, to help sort all the caregiving expenses.
Keep this in mind: while this might seem overwhelming for you, but it is equally as difficult for the elderly, if not harder. Their lives are changing – memory loss, serious illness, not as sexually active as before, feeling sad or depressed, peers passing away.
The ageing process does not have to be a tormenting ordeal. You can make the last days of your elderly loved ones their best days and they will be glad that they had you in their lives. Just stay informed and continue to engage in open and honest communication with everyone involved in the process and you will be able to make and implement the best choices for them.