As our parent’s age, they may need support to continue to enjoy a happy and healthy life. Here are 4 practical steps to take when caring for elderly parents
As your parents age, you may suspect that they are beginning to need help in certain areas of life. However, you may not be sure of the best way to provide appropriate help in a supportive way. Obviously, you want your parents to be happy, healthy and safe but you want them to continue to have as much independence as possible, too. To help you decide the best course of action, here are 4 things you should consider when caring for elderly parents.
1. Take a look at your parent’s needs
The idea of caring for elderly parents can be overwhelming. We are often unsure of what exactly they need and what help we should provide. Breaking this issue down into key areas and assessing each one, can help you make a clear and practical plan and work out the best way to support them.
To start, look at your loved one’s life and check how well they are coping in the following 7 areas:
- Home safety
- Medical needs
- Cognitive health
- Personal hygiene
- Meal preparation
- Social interaction
From your observations, you can work out any areas in which they need extra support as well as assessing whether any support they are already getting is enough.
For example, you may find that your parent is coping well with everyday chores and meal preparation but is rather isolated and lonely. In this case, you might arrange for a regular visit from a home carer or for someone to take them to social activities.
As another example, if you find that your loved one isn’t eating properly, you can arrange for meals on wheels, or for a carer to visit daily to prepare and cook healthy meals to their taste.
2. Think about your own needs and skills
Most of us would like to help our parents as much as possible and take care of them ourselves. However, this is not always the best solution. You need to consider your own needs and abilities. Take into consideration any health needs of your own, as well as whether you have the skills required.
Caring for elderly parents can be a difficult job and specialist carers will be thoroughly trained in areas such as lifting, administering medication, elderly nutrition and potential medical issues such as cognitive decline or mental health. They can then provide this care allowing you to use your visits to simply enjoy the company of your parent.
Of course, there may well be areas in which you can provide the best support for your parents. For example, you may provide company, arrange to see to any safety issues around the home or help them with finances and administration. The key is to match your needs and abilities to the tasks you do to help your parent. You can then seek the additional support from specialist in areas where you do not have the necessary expertise.
3. Include your parent in the process
Getting older can be a difficult experience and many older people fear losing their independence and having less control over their lives. To ease their fears, involve them as much as is possible in the process.
Often, our parents are resistant to changes such as having a ‘stranger’ in the house or accepting help. If you can involve them in the process, they will feel like they have some control and may be more open to trying different courses of action.
You may need to start with small changes that are not too intrusive and then build on these once your parent begins to see the benefits. Having a carer come in once a week to do some household chores is often a good place to start as it gets your loved one used to having someone come into the home. In addition, when this person is well-chosen, your loved one will begin to see them as a friend rather than a stranger.
Of course, you must always make the safety of your loved one a priority so if they have urgent needs relating to health and safety you may have to intervene even if they resist. However, with patience, it is usually possible to negotiate a plan that is acceptable to everyone.
4. Explore the options for caring for elderly parents
Once you have established what care needs are required, you can discuss the available options with your loved one. There are many different choices from residential care to live-in carers or regular home care visits.
Together, you can decide the best way to meet your parent’s additional needs. Possible solutions include specific services such as meals on wheels or transport to appointments. For more extensive needs you may choose to have a regular home carer or live-in carer to help your loved one with personal care, household chores and meals.
Live-in carers can provide an extensive range of assistance, from nursing care to looking after a pet, and have the benefit of allowing your loved one to remain in their own home and keep to their usual routines.
Even if your loved one has serious medical needs or issues such as dementia, a specialist carer can allow your loved one to stay in the comfort of their own home surrounded by their own things.