No matter who we are, there is a large chance that we may need to care for an elderly relative at some point in our lives. Aging is a fact of life in many ways, but this often does not make things any easier when they actually happen to us. With this in mind, we have put together a guide for how you can look after elderly parents if you are placed in that situation. The tips that we include in this guide can help both you and your parents at this stressful time, and we are certain that you will be thankful for the tips below.
Think about the layout of the property
As we age, it becomes more difficult to get around, and this includes in our own home. With this in mind, it is important to think about ensuring that the property is free of clutter and anything that can be tripped over, and it is key to make sure that there are clear, spacious walkways to key parts of the home where your parent may need to visit. You should also make sure that any wires are tucked away if possible, as these can be a risk if they are tripped over.
Consider mobility in the kitchen and bathroom
If you parent is able to wash and cook for themselves, some small amendments to the property might help for them to do this. For example, bars and non-slip mats in the bathroom can make a big difference, and having a high stool for them to sit on while preparing food in the kitchen can help them to be as independent as possible for as long as possible.
Keep track of where your parent is at all times
It is important for you to know, as far as possible, where your elderly parent is at all times. They may be able to get out and about to a certain extent, or may travel via ambulance to hospital appointments. Knowing exactly when these events are occurring can help you a lot, as it means that you will not need to worry as much if you cannot get in touch with them – as you know that they have other plans. There are also devices that can be used in the home, such as motion sensors, that can help you to learn where your relative is within their own property. This can be useful as it helps to know when they are in an unusual place, or perhaps in the bathroom or kitchen for longer than you would consider normal. You are able to get devices which don’t include audio or visual outputs, meaning that privacy is not invaded, yet you still have peace of mind.
Keep communication open
Ideally, your parent will have a mobile phone that they can use whenever they need to get in touch with you. It helps to encourage them to wear clothes with a pocket in which the phone can be kept, and teach them how to keep it charged, so that they can simply reach for their phone whenever they need help. An emergency careline can be a good idea too, and you can have emergency buttons and cords installed, in addition to a chain that can be worn around the neck so that the button can be pressed whenever needed. This means that whenever something happens, help can be gained immediately.
Try to hire help if you can
Although you may be determined to take care of your loved one alone, this isn’t always possible, and hiring help is a good idea. This could be someone to help your parent dress, wash, or cook, or somebody to clean the house. Not only would this make things much more manageable for you, but it also means that your parent would have a little extra company during the day, which is something that many people respond well to.
Get into a regular routine of visiting
You may be able to visit your loved one every day, or you may have a different schedule, but it is important that your loved one knows exactly when to expect you. If you let them know when you can visit, and when you can carry out various tasks for them, it will give them the peace of mind that everything is taken care of, and that there is nothing for them to worry about. A regular routine can be important, but they should also know that they are able to get in touch with you (or an agreed, trusted person) should they need any extra help at any point.
Encourage movement and exercise where possible
This will depend on the physical health of your loved one, but encouraging exercise that your parent is capable of can be very beneficial to them. You may be able to take them for a walk around a park, or take their wheelchair if they are not able to walk very far. If your parent is housebound, even a walk from one end of a room to another, or stepping outside into the garden, can break up the day and improve physical and mental health a small amount.
Get all medication under control
Not all elderly people need to take medication, however others have many different tablets to take at different times of day. It is important to read all instructions on medication boxes to make sure that you know what needs to be taken, and at what time. If your parent cannot administer their own medication it should be kept well out of reach, but if they can, putting it into a labelled box with times and days to take the medication is something that can help a great deal. Adhering to medication advice can help improve and maintain health, so it is certainly worth paying a lot of attention to.
Be patient – and take care of yourself
Being a carer isn’t easy, but a lot of the time it is also difficult for your parent, who may have lost a lot of their independence. Relations can sometimes be strained while caring for a loved one, but it is important to be as patient as you possibly can. It can help to take care of yourself, too. Plan times where you can have time for yourself, and try to take breaks when another family member or professional can take over care for a short time. This is something that will help your own coping, and this will therefore allow you to feel as though you are much better able to take care of your loved one.
Although caring for a loved one is never easy, there are certainly ways in which it can be made easier, and by taking into account the tips above, you should find that you can feel positive about the experience, and know that you have tried your absolute best with the situation that you are in.