Is your aging parent dealing with worsening health, mobility, or cognitive issues? If the answer is yes, it’s natural to be worried. And if your mom or dad lives alone, then your worry probably takes up a good deal of mental energy.
Today, many older adults who face aging-related challenges are choosing to continue living independently. There’s a term for this phenomenon: aging in place.
Of course, it’s important to watch for signs that your parent who’s aging in place is no longer coping. But a move to assisted living isn’t always the best solution. Comfort, safety, and dignity are important to us all. It may be that a few lifestyle or environmental modifications will allow your parent to continue maintaining this balance at home.
That said, there are bound to be challenges. In this post, we’ll look at four areas of difficulty your loved one is likely to encounter—and what you can do to help.
1) Completing activities of daily living
Eating, bathing, toileting—most of us engage in these activities, commonly referred to as the activities of daily living (ADLs), without incident. But for many older adults who are aging in place, the difficulties they pose are significant.
From compromised mobility to poor eyesight, there are a whole host of physical challenges that can get in the way of basic self care activities.
In many cases, tweaks to a living environment can make all the difference. Kitchen appliances can be set out in ways that reduce physical strain. For example, keeping a microwave at or below counter height can make bending and reaching less stressful on the body.
Bathrooms can be remodeled to make bathing simpler for those with mobility issues. Lever controls are easier to use than knob-shaped faucets, and portable shower chairs are good for those who have difficulty standing for long periods of time.
2) Avoiding falls
For many older adults, completing the activities of daily life—or simply moving around the house—comes with safety risks. Falls are one of the most worrisome, since they can lead to head injuries, hip fractures, and many other serious or debilitating injuries.
We’ve already discussed ways to make bathing more comfortable, but it’s also important to recognize the hazards it can pose. Walk-in bathtubs can make bathing much safer and less stressful.
Of course, bathrooms aren’t the only places where falls can occur. Luckily, a few modifications—such as removing scatter rugs and ensuring adequate lighting—can make every room in your parent’s home safer.
Technology can also provide peace of mind—for you as well as your mom or dad. Fall detection systems save lives, and they don’t have to be obtrusive. A lightweight bracelet that senses falls is a good option for those at risk, whatever their activity levels may be.
3) Accessing transportation
Aging in place allows older adults to remain where they’re most comfortable—in their homes. That said, getting out of the house is an important part of living independently. Often, it’s an absolute necessity.
Maybe you can’t always be there to drive your mom to the grocery store. Perhaps your dad’s medical appointments conflict frequently with your work schedule. In these situations, how can you ensure that your parent is able to get around safely?
Fortunately, there are affordable transportation options for older adults in cities across Ontario.
Some services are offered for free, while others provided for a fee. For example, Toronto Ride, a transportation network comprised of thirteen agencies, charges a maximum of $17 each way.
Many vehicles can accommodate wheel chairs, walkers, and other equipment, and escorts are often permitted to come along.
4) Social isolation
One of the most unrecognized problems among older adults who are aging in place is social isolation. If you live too far away from your parent to visit regularly, you may be worried about whether they’re engaging in enough (or any) social contact. If the answer to this question is no, your concern is warranted.
Social isolation can have negative physical, psychological, and cognitive health impacts. Studies show that having a limited social support network is linked to a 60% increase in the risk of dementia and cognitive decline.
It goes without saying that increasing in-person contact is best. If regular visits from loved ones aren’t realistic, you might consider asking a friendly neighbor to check in every now and then.
In many cases, mobile technology can also help. The right videoconferencing app can connect you and your parent face-to-face—at any time. You can also rest easy knowing that your mom and dad can get in touch with you whenever they need to.
Of course, many older adults are reluctant to reach out. The reasons for this hesitation can range from the fear of being a burden to mobility challenges that make operating a phone difficult.
Downloading an app on a tablet for your parent demonstrates your desire to keep in touch and encourages them to make the call. And with the right app, calling you will be is as easy and intuitive as tapping a picture on a tablet screen.
Feature image courtesy of Lucy Lambriex