Let’s reframe things a little; aging is a stage of life which those who make it to are lucky to experience. Respect earned, a rich life lived, a wiseness accrued; there’s so much to feel positive about in those autumn years. However, aging is also sometimes characterised by a decline in mental and physical vitality. If you have a loved one still keen on independence and autonomy, but also in need of a little care, then there are steps you can take to make life as easy as possible for them. With that in mind, here are 5 IDEAL tips for taking care of independent elderly family members.
PREPARE THE HOME
Whether an elderly loved one is moving in with you so you can assist with care, or they’re staying put, at home, there are some adjustments you’ll need to make to the domestic space to make life as easy as possible.
Start by making sure that there’s less necessity to go upstairs. If possible, their bedroom should be on the ground floor, or a stairlift is installed. Make sure countertops are at the correct height and items, especially in the kitchen and bathroom, can be reached with no struggle. Ensure surfaces below foot are slip resistant, and windows are easily accessible and don’t require any force above 2kg (the recommended, manageable amount). If you’re looking for more advice on this, check out our 5 IDEAL questions to ask before moving house after retirement.
If you’re not available to look after your loved ones or give them the complete, undivided attention they might need, consider hiring a helper. This helper may come to your home and spend time with elderly loved ones when you are not available, or a live-in care assistant will do just that; live with your elderly relative and provide care. Though this isn’t cheap, sometimes you just can’t put a price on peace of mind.
KEEP A DIALOGUE OPEN
Though physical wellbeing is, of course, crucial in old age, it’s equally vital for your loved one’s mental health to remind them of their value and importance. This can be done through regular phone calls and visits, as well as ensuring your relative always has something in the diary or on the calendar to look forward to; psychologically important in those autumn years. If making phone calls is tough for your elderly relative, consider investing in a smart home hub device, such as an Amazon Echo with Alexa, or Apple’s Siri; the hands free nature, as well as simplicity of use, can be really useful for those elderly people who struggle with mobility or cognitive function.
If your elderly loved ones are living alone, there are other useful ways to check in on them regularly. Aside from those calls we mentioned, motion sensors are also reliable for keeping track of them, to check if there’s been a fall or other issue when no one is around. Though ‘tracking’ perhaps sounds intrusive, for some it offers security and a sense of serenity.
TAKE CARE OF MEDICINE & APPOINTMENTS
As people age, medication, medicine and doctor’s appointments become a more regular concern. Things can get mixed up, forgotten, or misplaced, due to poor memory, worsening eyesight or distraction. Get involved; label meds with bold letters, keep drugs in separate cabinets to reduce the chances of mixing them up and invest in pillboxes which are broken down into days. Also try to play a more active role in arranging (and even attending) their GP’s appointments, as information given here can sometimes be forgotten or misconstrued once they’ve got home from the surgery.