Seeing changes in an elderly parent age can be a difficult, and even alarming, experience. Perhaps dad’s bills are piling up, and he’s neglecting things he once took pride in. Maybe mom’s forgetfulness is starting to look like a precursor to something more serious.
Suddenly, the roles you and your parent have always played are reversed. You’re the caregiver, and you aren’t sure what to do. In these situations, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed.
If you haven’t already done so, you may be wondering if it’s time to consider home care services. If you’re currently receiving help from a paid caregiver, you may be asking yourself if it’s enough.
These are tough questions. But they’re questions you must consider if you’re sure that the best place for your parent is at home. Luckily, there are steps you can take you can do to help your mom or dad stay independent – with or with our outside help. For a few tips, read on.
1) Install in-home safety features
Does your parent needs assistance with the activities of daily living? Chances are, there’s a product out there that can help.
Start by understanding the source of your loved one’s difficulties. A person with early-stage dementia and a person with severe arthritis may both have trouble using the stove. But the reasons will be different – the solutions should be, too.
For those with cognitive issues, child-proof locks and appliances that shut off automatically can be literal live savers. Sensors can be set up around the house to alert caregivers of potentially-risky behaviour.
If mobility is the primary issue, a bit of remodelling can make a huge difference. Grab bars in the bathroom can prevent falls, as can walk-in bathtubs.
A personal emergency system can help your elderly parent feel secure at home. Note that it pays to do a bit of research. Automatic fall detection is just one of many safety features that isn’t available with all systems.
2) Remove accident hazards
Falls are one of the biggest dangers for older adults living at home. Every year, between 20 and 30% of seniors fall. While having a system in place to deal with these events is critical, prevention is always best.
What can you do to prevent your parent from falling? Often, it’s as simple as removing hazards. If your loved one’s house is cluttered, help her get organized. The placement of any object that could cause tripping should be carefully considered. Area rugs and cords that run across hallways are common culprits.
Brighten up dim hallways to prevent falls from occurring at night. Lighting considerations are especially important if your elderly parent suffers from declining eyesight or is prone to confusion.
3) Check in with your elderly parent
Does your parent have regular contact with somebody outside of his home?
Check-in sessions are important for a few reasons. They provide you or another caregiver with the opportunity to assess your parent’s wellbeing. They also help stave off loneliness, which is a problem for one in five Canadian seniors.
How frequently is your parent alone, and for how long? If your mom or dad receives home care services, make sure you know how often workers are checking in. Whether paid caregivers are involved or not, it will be meaningful when you or another family member make contact.
Consider using video chats to connect face-to-face when you can’t be there. Home care workers can also use video to check in remotely. Make sure the app or program you use is intuitive and easy to use. Clear visuals and tap-to-call applications can be especially useful.
4) Keep an eye on medication use
One in five elderly persons will be admitted to the hospital due to medication use. If your parent is having difficult taking prescribed medications, it makes sense to be concerned. Misuse and bad interactions can have worrying health effects and lead to accidents around the house.
One of the best things you can do is understand your parent’s drug regiment. Talk to a pharmacist – especially if multiple medications are involved. In Ontario, the provincial MedCheck program can help by providing in-home consultations.
If your mom or dad is forgetful, electronic medication reminders can be useful. Programs that notify caregivers when doses are missed can also provide peace of mind.
5) Solicit help from friendly neighbours
You probably don’t live next door to your elderly parent. The distance between you – whether it’s an entire province or a twenty-minute drive – may be a source of real anxiety.
But there are almost certainly people nearby, and they may be willing to help. If there’s a chance that dementia could lead to wandering, consider informing the neighbours. Ask them to contact you if they see your parent out alone.
Often, just knowing someone is keeping an eye out can set your mind at ease. Is mom taking the garbage out? Does dad seem like his regular, pleasant self during conversation?
A friendly neighbour can make a huge difference. Who knows? An act of kindness might just turn into an invaluable relationship for your loved one.
Keeping Your Cool
Planning for the care of an elderly parent isn’t easy. You may be weighing several options, while struggling with feelings of worry, frustration and guilt. Disagreements with family members may occur, increasing stress levels.
It’s important to stay calm and exercise as much control as you can over your reactions to what’s happening. Panic doesn’t help anyone. Either does burnout. Remember what’s really important.
Unfortunately, there may come a day when residential care is the only feasible option left. The good news? if staying at home is what’s best for your parent right now, there are ways to make it happen. With a bit of foresight and a lot compassion, you can help your mom or dad stay independent.
Feature image courtesy: Chris Marchant