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Looking for tips for caring for elderly at home?
Often the first step in the long-term plan for elderly parents and grandparents is caring for elderly at home. In fact, many choose to remain in their own home or that of the family.
Of course, comfort plays a big role in the decision. Many of our elderly live most of their adult lives in one home. It’s familiar to them. And physically, as well as emotionally comfortable.
However, even moving to the home of a family member offers that home-style comfort that facility-based care lacks. While moving to a facility may be part of future care, most choose to stay at home whenever possible.
And home care offers benefits to the family, too.
While caring for the elderly takes time and energy, it also provides the knowledge that Mom or Dad receives the best care at all times by people who truly know them and care for them.
One additional factor is that of cost. Facility care is quite expensive. Even if the basic care is covered by insurance or other sources, additional costs happen. And you need to factor in the costs of driving back and forth to the facility to see your loved ones. That is time and money.
Most often, adult children hold the responsibility of finding or providing senior care for the parents. For some, this may happen as the adult children reach retirement. Others find themselves members of the “sandwich generation,” a term used for parents still caring for children at home and also for their elderly parents.
While the sandwich generation term recently came into use, many remember these generational families as the norm of yesteryear. Over time, we became less apt to share homes in this way, but now families needing care solutions return to these generational models. In fact, this closer family unit may once again be the preferred choice of many.
Helpful Suggestions When Caring For Aging Parents
Keep a close eye on your parent’s well being
At first, caring for elderly parents at home may only require a daily phone call to check on them. If you live close enough, you might even drop in for a few moments several times a week. Check to see what is happening in their life. Even a few minutes of conversation provides a chance to ensure all is well.
However, this may not be enough to ensure your loved one is well. Many seniors don’t want to be a burden. So they attempt to hid physical or mental needs. In fact, they may not even know they have these needs.
Even if the senior isn’t trying to hide the issues, well-meaning loved ones often miss the early cues. It’s important to watch closely and continually assess.
Enlist the help of others when caring for elderly at home
Caregiving is a huge responsibility. It gets increasingly harder over time as the grow proportionally as time goes by. Having help along the way makes it easier to manage any challenge or crisis that may arise.
If possible, find ways for the entire immediate family to help. When you need a caregiver to step in for the day or even a weekend, it’s important to know you have that covered. You might want additional help cleaning the home or making meals.
We also found it helpful to have an assistant for a doctor appointment. You might need a driver. Or perhaps help in and out of the vehicle. Every small bit of help makes a big difference to caregiving.
Plan to provide easy-ready meals
Our elderly loved ones often need nutrition help. They may not feel the same hunger that once called them to the table. Or they may lack the ability to shop for and prepare their own food. Often times, this leads to the senior skipping meals or opting for something simple to grab from a box or bag. These processed foods likely lack a full nutritional profile. Some may even cause other problems.
Watch for signs that your Mom or Dad needs help with meals. Even if they are still living in their own home, find ways to ensure they eat well. You might consider doing the shopping with them or for them. Then, prepare some meals ahead for them to eat when you are not there.
If your parent lives in your home, the meal preparation happens with your family’s meals. However, your parent may prefer other foods. For instance, if your family enjoys spicy tacos, your Dad might find those upset his stomach. When you are having tacos, maybe Dad would prefer a homemade burger with a side of green beans.
It’s important to ensure that your elderly loved one enjoys the food you serve. Ask them what sounds good to eat. Maybe you can even keep a few favorite snacks on hand. Catering to their tastes helps ensure they eat enough of the right foods.
For more information on the elderly and their foods, please read here.
Take care of yourself
This one gets pushed aside too often. If you have ever flown on an airline, you have heard the speech that includes for parents to put their own oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs.
The reasoning is the same. You cannot help someone else if you are in desperate need.
However, note an important caution with this one. There will be times when you are stretched beyond your normal limits. It happens. Your loved one falls. Or develops a fever. Or some other issue happens.
In fact, most caregivers experience this from time to time. That’s why it’s important to have resilience and perseverance. You might need to work through these times before you have a chance to breathe.
Another consideration that comes to mind here is the need for help, at least occasionally. Don’t overlook this important factor.
Keep your elderly loved one active
The way that this happens necessarily varies according to the individual. However, it’s important to find ways to keep the senior as active as possible, both mentally and physically.
If your Mom was once the social leader in her church, she might feel depressed if she is unable to attend services regularly. Similarly, if Dad was in a bowling league and now must stay at home, he may feel sad and lonely, even with family near.
Change, though inevitable, need not be all bad. Consider setting up visitors from the church, bowling league, or other favorite activities. You might also reach out to friends they have not seen in a while. Maybe plan a card game at home for a few friends.
The happiness factor should never be considered unimportant. In fact, keeping your senior loved ones active benefits the entire family. And it enhances their mental and physical health, too.
If possible, plan some activities outside the home, too. Arrange a picnic at the park with a friend or two. Trips to the aquarium or zoo might interest your senior. Sometimes just a drive around the neighborhood with a stop at the ice cream stand creates a welcome break from daily routines.
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Products that prove helpful to us when caring for elderly at home
Throughout this site, we feature products that we used and found quite helpful.
Also, if we find a product has not worked well for us, we will point that out. In fact, some actually proved to be a waste of money to us. If you know of others or have comments about the ones we list, please add your comments at the end of this page. Thank you!
Make the home safe and easy to live in
Even a healthy senior may fall and experience a serious injury. One medical professional told me that falls that cause broken hips are quite common and often lead to further problems for the elderly. He cautioned that the best we could do for my Dad was ensure he never took a fall. As any caregiver knows, that is a tall order, but quite essential.
Look first for easy modifications that make life safer. Many such changes are quick, inexpensive, and necessary.
Consider adding grab bars in the bathroom, by doorways, and any area where transitions might happen. Also, make sure that any item the senior might need is within easy reach. Redesigning the living area to accommodate the elderly’s needs might well save a serious injury.
Steps going in and out of the home, or even between floors, create a major problem. So do missing or loose handrails. If at all possible, it’s best to have a ramp entrance to the home and plan all living space for the senior on the ground floor.
If that is not desirable or possible, stairlifts provide a safer option than stairs.
Consider safe transportation options
At some point, probably not too far within, the elderly necessarily stops driving. This might be one of the most difficult transitions for them. But that should not end their ability to travel.
As the senior becomes less agile, public transportation and taxi or Uber service might not be good options, either. However, some possible choices exist. These include senior transport services and friends and family. Sometimes the local church offers assistance, as well.
Although you may not know you need this until the time comes, it’s best to investigate your alternatives before you need them. Even if you believe you will always be the driver, consider your own vehicle and it’s suitability, too. Some are just too difficult to help the elderly person in and out. Others may be raised too high off the ground. And some are just too small to accommodate the needed accessories such as a wheelchair or walker.
Plan for financial obligations
Financial planning needs to be done early and often. Home care by family members may be the least expensive option, but you will need to factor in other matters, too. If your senior loved one stays in his or her own home, you will be driving to and from their home. Consider the cost of gas and also any supplies and safety features you will need.
However, if they move into your family home, you may need to plan for adding safety features such as ramps and grab bars. It is usually less costly to maintain everyone in one home, rather than two separate homes, but the initial investment may be more.
Some financial help may be available for seniors in your area. Know the resources before making a final decision.
A Labor of Love
Caring for your aging parents or grandparents is a labor of love. Many consider this to be a memorable experience with few or no regrets. However, without proper planning, it often means more challenges and sometimes disappointments. Like more of life, planning makes a big difference.
Our story of caring for elderly at home
My Beloved Dad
When my Dad’s stroke necessitated at-home care, we kept him at his own home for several months. Living about an hour away, making it necessary for me to stay for several days or even weeks at a time with him. Those trips were challenging at times. I never felt right leaving my family to travel to Dad’s. But then I never felt good leaving Dad to go home for a few days while my brother stayed with him.
After many months, we finally made the decision to move Dad to our farm, it was a challenge to get set up for his arrival. But what a difference it made in our lives!
Dad was quite comfortable living with us.
I believe it helped him, knowing someone was always there to talk with and just be with. He never felt alone. We had modified his living space to accommodate his needs. It did take some time and effort to perfect everything, but the savings in time and emotional concerns made that all worthwhile.
I do regret is not finding a way to move Dad in sooner. We honestly didn’t think he would want to move from the home he had shared for so many years with my Mom. As it turned out, he and his little dog found comfort in life in their trailer on our farm. And I was able to be there for him full-time.
It did take planning, everything does. But I encourage you to consider how to make those last years as memorable as possible with your senior parents.
I’ll be sharing more of our personal insights, as well as research and studies, on this website. Please subscribe and come along for the journey!