You might not remember when you took your first step, when you had your first tooth, or when you said your first word. Your parents do. Indeed, they perhaps remember your journey up to this point even better than you.
It’s a sad truth, though, that aging is sometimes characterised by a decline in mental and physical vitality. But let’s flip our perspective a little. Respect earned, a rich life lived, a wiseness accrued; there’s so much to feel positive about in those autumn years.
But perspective isn’t the only thing flipped here. As your parents age, you’ll find an inevitable role reversal takes place. Whether it feels gradual or sudden, you will one day be in a position where you’re taking care of your folks, and it’s important to be ready for it.
Life can get busy and, as much as you would like to be with them 24/7, there are other things that compete for your attention. If you want to give them the best care possible without sacrificing your other commitments, then read on. We’ve teamed up with Tandem CarePlanning’s caregivers to offer these 5 ways to provide support for your aging parents.
VISIT THEM REGULARLY
Firstly, a disclaimer; we realise that right now, visits to elderly loved ones aren’t possible, and we’re afraid to say they’ll likely be discouraged for a few months yet. But this is all about planning for the future and laying the groundwork for things to come.
Indeed, it seems so simple but can often get overlooked in and amongst a busy and stressful life. But calling in more often, even simply for a cup of tea and chat, is a great way to provide support and companionship to your aging parents. Even if you’re only lending company rather than a hand, the conversation and human warmth will be so appreciated.
During your visits, it is important to be empathetic to your aging parents’ ever changing needs. As people get older, they experience a whole host of changes to their bodies and minds. Thus, be patient if your loved ones are frustrated, moody, and sensitive.
Provide assistance where you can with their daily tasks, too. Once lockdown is lifted, and routine returns to normal, it might be hard for your parents to readjust. Make sure the fridge is fully stocked and pick up any prescriptions that are outstanding.
CALL ME DEFINITELY
Unless you’re living with your aging parents during this difficult time, then right now, communication from afar is the best we’ve got. Though physical wellbeing is, of course, crucial in old age, it’s equally vital for your loved one’s mental health to nurture an open dialogue and remind them of their value and importance. This can be done through regular phone calls; psychologically important in those autumn years, we think.
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.
Should your aging parents still be dexterous enough, encourage video chats through teaching them the technology; this adds that much needed extra layer of intimacy during this difficult time.
We’d all like to retain as much autonomy, independence and ultimately, dignity, as possible as we age. Fortunately, you can assist your parents in achieving this by making sure that their living spaces are safe for them.
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.
ENCOURAGE AN ACTIVE AND HEALTHY LIFE
It’s essential to good health whatever your age, but the importance of keeping active is amplified in old age, we think. And your encouragement will help motivate your aging parents to keep fit and follow a varied diet, as they feel that they have someone who values them. Motivation, indeed.
Encourage a diverse and delicious diet, high in fruit, vegetables, grains and pulses. You can do this by assisting with the grocery shopping, in person or, during this stange time, by nagging a much-coveted slot via an online food delivery website. Remember that digestive systems are particularly affected in aging, so focus on encouraging a high fibre diet where possible.
Eating nutritious food and being active can help keep the body’s immune systems strong. Physical activity can help improve mood, endurance, balance, and strength, too, so suggest simple exercise routines which they can complete at home each day.
If you don’t have elderly parents but still want to lend a hand in the community, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. During this tough time, it’s never been more needed.
Indeed, though many of us would spontaneously help a member of the older generation cross the road or carry their shopping, as a nation we can go so much further in our altruistic assistance of those in need.
The U.K’s leading charity for the elderly, Age UK, have set up their flagship Befriendersprogram, which pairs up volunteers with older members of the community, in the name of companionship. Shockingly, nearly half of all over 75s live alone, and the commitment here is simple; to call to offer conversation and support, and to drop by and visit. Though the scheme is charitable in name, most volunteers find great pleasure and gain a real sense of meaning through participation. There really is no reason not to.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Though so many remain too stoic (or even stubborn) to ask for help, your aging parents need all the support you can give. This assistance can take many forms; you can help by visiting and calling regularly, ensuring that they are living safely, supporting them financially, and continually encouraging them to be active and live a healthy lifestyle. Spread the love; our close ones and communities need it more than ever.