taking care of elderly parents in your home, there are numerous considerations to take into account and prepare for - where will they sleep, who will handle transportation, what will they do, the list goes on. When bringing your elderly parent into your home to live, remember these 5 c’s:
Comfort: Comfort doesn’t just mean a warm bed and a TV to watch. Comfort for your elderly parent takes into consideration all those things which make them feel safe, healthy, and purposeful. Safety comes about through helping prevent falls by clearing away clutter, laying down reflective guide tape on stairs and ledges, and installing grab bars and rails where necessary by stairs and bathtubs.
The comfort of knowing their health is under control is also a huge stress-reliever for elderly parents. Organized medicine cabinets and pill boxes, regular check-ups with the doctor, help managing refills on prescriptions and supplies - all of these types of small assistance really add up to preventing stress and frustration with your elderly parent.
Communication: Learning to live with a new person is one thing, learning to live with your elderly parent when you’re an adult yourself is another. There can be an adjustment period as you work on communication in close proximity and feel each other’s expectations out. Remember, your parent might be frustrated or anxious about losing their own living independence, so recognizing this and communicating your own understanding can be incredibly helpful.
Schedules can also serve as vital communication tools. A set structure for the day can help elderly parents, especially those experiencing early stages of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, feel more confident and operate more successfully in their day. An agenda for waking up, taking medicine, eating meals, exercising, watching TV, and doing hobbies not only gives your elderly parent more control over their day and activities, but helps them plan ahead and commits certain actions to body memory.
Cooking: Nutrition and hydration play important roles in the mental and physical health of any human being, but in particular to an elderly parent who lives with you. Senior citizens can quickly become dehydrated because they often don’t get up for food or drink unless it is readily made available to them.
In addition to that, special diets and restrictions might make regular eating a bit more complex for your elderly parent - low-sodium diets to control blood pressure and heart disease, low-sugar and low-carb diets to control diabetes, foods high in calcium to fight bone loss, the list goes on. Avoiding processed and junk foods as well as sugary beverages like juice cocktails and soda, is a great first step in fostering a food environment that benefits your parent’s health. Planning out a menu together, understanding the dietary requirements handed down from their doctor or dietitian, and getting your parent in on the fun of cooking will also encourage healthy eating and drinking habits while they live with you.
Cleaning: Over half of all falls experienced by seniors happen in the home, and sadly, 1 in 3 seniors over the age of 65 will experience a fall. Having an elderly parent living with you means you need to be extra aware of clutter, trip hazards, and the health consequences of falling for older adults, including hip fractures, sprains and broken bones, head injuries, and hospitalization.
Removing large, unused furniture from your loved one’s room frees up space for them to move around with ease. Making sure small objects, cords, curled up corners of carpets, even pets aren’t in common walkways can also help keep your parent from tripping.
Connection: Helping your elderly parent rediscover passions and purpose in their life will combat the feelings of loss and anxiety that accompany no longer being able to live on their own. Social isolation quickly targets the elderly, especially those who need to arrange transportation to get out or who feel like a burden because their now-limited ability requires them to live with you.
Connecting your elderly parent with resources in the community - whether it’s a program at the local senior center or library, an exercise class at the YMCA, or a club or group they can join for social outings - demonstrates a willingness on your part to not just provide a home for them, but care about their well-being and happiness in old age.
Finally, don’t forget the the legal conditions that come with having an elderly parent live with you. Updating their address with Medicare, the Social Security Administration, and the postal service, in addition to handling durable and healthcare power of attorney documents are important administrative duties that will fall to you.
This is a guest blog entry.