Written by Jessica Hegg
Taking care of an older relative or aging loved one at home can be hard – it’s never something that anyone looks forward to. But given that our parents and other older loved ones took care of us for many years, and in the spirit of caring and respect, it’s often an essential duty as we begin to age, mature, and take on more responsibility. It’s important that we know how to properly step in when a parent or loved one begins to face age-related challenges.
So we’ve put together a quick guide with some helpful advice on how to ensure a safe, happy, and active aging relative or loved one, and help them live at home with minimal risk, and very little interruption to their daily lives.
FIND OUT THE BASICS
Do you know when your mom’s last doctor’s visit was? How your dad fills his prescriptions? Is driving still a possibility, or is it out of the question?
The first, and hardest step towards ensuring a happy and safe environment for an aging loved one is the conversation. The conversation where you get a real idea of where they are in the aging process, what special needs or risk factors are they facing? Take into account pre-existing conditions or ailments, special requirements they may have.
Remember, you can’t know how to take care of anyone if you don’t know what they need. This step is essential, and it’s important that your aging loved one is frank and honest with you, and that you get a real idea of what they need.
TAKE APPROPRIATE NEXT STEPS
Maybe the stairs aren’t a problem yet, but could be in a couple years – if your loved one is having trouble getting around them, consider installation of a chairlift. Maybe the bathtub shower is become a hazard – fragile bones and reduced ability to recover can make even everyday objects hazardous, especially as your loved one continues to age.
One of the best ways to do this is to hire a professional. There’s a whole industry around caring for the elderly while they live in their own homes, and there are professional assessors out there who can take a full account of your loved one’s aging and health into account to recommend adjustments, both to behavior, such as reducing their driving to grocery store trips, to recommendations for other precautions – specialized mattresses built to help avoid bed sores, if necessary for a bedridden loved one, or more simple precautions, like added rails and grips in the bathroom, and chairlifts. They can even recommend medical alarms, motion sensors, and other means of communication, monitoring and prevention, if necessary.
It is, of course, possible to assess these risks yourself, but it’s quite possible you’ll overlook something important, so a professional consultation is certainly worth the price of admission.
Once these measures have been recommended, it’s best to implement any of the ones that are urgent quickly and effectively, so that your aging loved ones have time to get used to them, and they become commonplace and are familiar, even before they may be required.
VISIT OFTEN – OR HIRE SOMEONE WHO CAN
If your aging loved one is remaining in their home and you don’t live close by, you’ll still want to visit as often as you can, or perhaps co-ordinate with closer relatives to get a good idea of how they’re doing on a regular basis.
You can also consider hiring a homecare professional – these professionals are not responsible for medical needs or specialized care beyond basic medical knowledge, but instead serve as a way to help provide for aging loved ones – grocery trips, reminders and transportation for appointments, etc. and are a great way to make sure that your aging relatives are getting the treatment and living the life that they deserve in their old age, even if you live miles away.
ANTICIPATE FUTURE EXPENSES, AND DRAW UP OR MODIFY NECESSARY DOCUMENTS
As time goes on, your aging loved ones are more and more likely to need specialized home care, or medical procedures and prescriptions that can be costly. It’s important to get an idea of their finances so that you know how much they can cover, and if, in an emergency, you’ll need to help out with costs.
Going hand-in-hand with this is one of the more uncomfortable conversations you can have, but a necessary one – necessary wills, power of attorney documents, and paperwork like DNR (do-not-resuscitate) documents, and others. This conversation is usually tougher for the child or caretaker than the aging relative – but it will give both parties peace of mind when they know that all of the necessary paperwork has been dealt with, so it’s an important step towards a happy, healthy at-home aging experience
This is just a quick guide to help you through some of the more important, safety-focused aspects of caring for a loved one who is aging at home. There are tons of informational and comprehensive guides written on the subject which give a more complete view, but this is a good place to start.
Remember, the people who cared for you when you were young deserve to have the same empathy and care given to them. It may be hard, but it’s a necessary part of the life cycle, and ignoring the needs of an aging loved one can lead to unfortunate consequences.
Start with having an open, honest conversation about your loved one’s needs, make sure that they’ve got all they need to maintain the same lifestyle, and ensure that you monitor their aging progression, or the progression of any diseases or conditions that they may have, while ensuring you’ve got a plan for the inevitable.
Following those basic steps will ensure a graceful aging process, and help guide you through the home care of an aging loved one.