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In most places the elderly in the community are referred to as those above the age of 65 years. At this age, the thought of an aged-care home is generally speaking, still far, far on the horizon. These are the blissful days of retirement and few can imagine a day where their independence may recede.
As we age, we do at some point have to consider what our lives will look like and who will step up as our care-provider when some tasks simply become too difficult. These are questions we must ask of our elderly parents who may elect to live in a senior living community or choose to remain independent. There are such an array of senior living communities available, depending on where you live, that your elderly parent needn’t feel restricted to just those two options. Various levels of independence can be achieved withing active adult communities, independent living communities, assisted living residences, nursing homes and continuing care retirement communities.
According to the statistics, 80-90% of the older population prefers to continue residing in their own homes for as long as possible. If an elderly parent makes this decision, it is important for you to support them and ensure that they have all that they need to make their lives easier. Discussions on the kind of help they may or may not require or whether they might transition into assisted living later on, are important to have with them. The decision to live independently can be overwhelming in many ways such as financially, emotionally, mentally and physically both for our elderly parents and for us. It is therefore important to fully be prepared for it.
Assessing the needs of the elderly is the first and most important step to take when one wishes to support the elderly who wish to live independently. These needs can range from occasional needs to needs that require constant attention. Some of the needs include;
- Health needs – Medical conditions such as Diabetes, Heart disease, Hypertension, Arthritis, Urinary incontinence and Dementia are some of the health needs that the elderly in our community deal with. Familiarizing yourself with their healthcare needs by talking to them and their healthcare team will help you understand the kind of help they may require and also know how best to help them. This may include; giving them pillboxes so they can keep track of their medication, accompanying them to their hospital appointments or offering financial help with regards to the hospital bills and the buying of medicine.
- Financial needs – due to their reduced work capacity, the elderly can be financially vulnerable, it is, therefore, important to offer them financial help where possible without also straining oneself.
- Emotional needs – it is also important to remain connected with the elderly in the community and cater to their mental and emotional needs. Making sure they are involved in family activities such as get-togethers or birthdays and weddings so they don’t feel lonely. Visiting them in their homes and creating memories is also important so the elderly don’t feel like the world is moving on without them.
- Mobility and transportation needs – for the elderly, mobility is very important, even if it is just within their surroundings. As feeble as they may be, having a means of transport is very fundamental in the sense that they can be able to go visit their family or go for their essential needs. This could involve making sure they have access to their own vehicle (if they’re able to still drive), an electric scooter or mobility vehicle, that they’re able to organize their own taxi, or have family and friends available to transport them as needed.
- Nutritional needs – eating a healthy meal is an important component in ensuring their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Ensuiring they have access to quality food throughout the week through meal share programs, dropping a couple pre-prepared meals into them, or the right set up that they can cater for their own needs.
Additionally, it is vital that the elderly have their opinions considered as decisions about their care are being made. This is to avoid any backlash on any of the decisions made about their care such as hiring of a caregiver and also helps them feel more comfortable with the new changes that may be effected.
When it comes to offering them help, it is important for us to be sensitive to how they may feel and also to their current and upcoming needs. For some, it is difficult to come out and ask for help and it is therefore on us to offer up our help.
The following are some of the ways of providing care for our elderly parents who choose to live independently.
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1. Finding them a caregiver
The decision to get a caregiver should be discussed at length with the parent before it is done. This is to avoid any backlash or any negative sentiments towards you and the caregiver. As your parents grow older, their needs may increase significantly and it may get more difficult to take care of them. A caregiver can assist the elderly whenever they cannot perform a certain task and can provide services when you cannot provide the service for the parent. Tasks such as; doing laundry, driving them, meal preparations and house cleaning.
2. Safety proofing the house
To avoid any accidents or mishaps, it is advisable to install safety features in the house such as bars, railings and ramps to ensure ease of movement within the house. This also eases accessibility within the house and enables them to do a lot around the house without having to rely on anyone’s help. It is important to give the parents as much independence as can be afforded.
3. Social activities
Encouraging our older parents to continue participating in their social events; such as going to church, visiting their friends and relatives and attending events such as weddings, birthdays and family reunions is important. This helps keep their brain active and also helps prevent loneliness. Finding activities that also help them stay active such as going for walks, gardening, swimming or yoga will enable them to have opportunities to interact with the outside and also with other people
4. Urinary incontinence & other health needs
Urinary incontinence is one of many medical conditions that affects mostly older people in our community. There are different types of urinary incontinence such as; mixed, urgent, stress, overflow and functional. This condition may prevent the elderly from participating in activities that require leaving the house due to the uncertainty and discomfort it brings. Some of the ways in which we can help include; getting them urinary incontinence underwear which is a specially designed type of underwear that helps manage incontinence. It helps prevent leaking and odor. Additionally, it also prevents skin irritation. This is a helpful guide to understanding men’s incontinence underwear options. There are even underwear which can hold mens incontinence pads for even more protection.
5. Delivery of essential needs
Due to the fact that the physical ability of the elderly is reduced, activities such as doing their laundry, cooking meals and grocery shopping may be affected. One should therefore come up with ways to deliver these services to them. In this age of the internet where everything can be found online, one of the ways to help our elderly parents is teaching them how to shop for groceries online and also how to order food online. In case one lives near their parents, they could also do meal preparations that are easy to cook or reheat. This way, whenever they need to cook or eat, not a lot of work needs to go into it. In case one lives far from their parents, getting them enrolled in programs in their community that offer these services may prove to be very useful.
Bio: Anna Williams has worked in aged care for over a decade and now enjoys a slower paced life freelance writing and volunteering locally. She loves to cook, and spends her weekends exploring hiking trails with her 2 beloved pups.