It's difficult to witness the deterioration of physical or mental abilities in an aging parent, grandparent or other loved one. Whether or not we're well-equipped or prepared, the reality remains that many of us will be tasked with making impactful decisions associated with caring for an elderly loved one. Since 80 to 90 percent of elderly people would choose to reside in their own homes as long as possible, as opposed to a nursing home or independent care, the new role for elderly caregivers can be challenging. The baby boomer generation has now reached a point where they need to be conscious of their caregivers, while still maintaining their independence and active lifestyle.
Many of us would undoubtedly prefer that our elderly loved ones stay in our homes to ensure they are well taken care of and properly cared for. However, this situation can become very stressful for the family as a whole, since leaving an aging parent home alone can pose a major issue if they slip and fall with no one around to help or are unable to follow hospital discharge regimens or daily routines on their own. With that said, we all know that life does not stop and give us a break when we take on new challenges or roles, and since nursing home costs continue to increase, today's technology is striving to make that choice easier by providing families peace of mind in helping elderly loved ones age independently.
Here are five things to consider when elderly parents choose to live home alone:
1. Essential Needs Delivered to the Door
Healthy eating is an essential component in ensuring physical and emotional well being. Driving can be a challenging activity for an elderly parent, which means basic needs like groceries and medicine refills need to be delivered to the door. To make things a bit simpler, efficient and work-from-home friendly, consider online grocery shopping to help reduce the physical stress of standing in line at the local market store.
2. Preparing the Home
Patients often ask me how they can properly prepare a home for aging parents, since the home in which they reside should be a safe haven. I often recommend that they first take a moment to put themselves in their loved one's shoes and recognize when and where common needs or hazards may arise in key areas like the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Some common and basic changes include: Installing bathroom rails to help support them when they walk through the house and avoid unexpected slips and falls, lowering shelves in the pantry so they can easily access items, adding more lighting and removing floor hazards. These changes around the home are basic and simple to do, and can provide caregivers with an added measure of confidence in having a parent live alone.
We should also consider how technology can play a major role in creating a safe environment for the elderly. The latest home security systems can provide caregivers with a real-time overview of the parent's home (of course, with their permission). By simply using a tablet or smartphone, you can instantly review video footage of key areas in near real-time, and remotely control lights, locks and thermostats.
3. Ensuring Health Care Measures
Many hospital discharge regimens require the daily task of taking medicines or checking blood sugar levels, which may seem inconsequential when there's no one there to remind you, but healthy seniors must focus on the maintenance for their good health in order to extend their time living at home as much as possible. Stay in contact with the doctor, pharmacist and/or nurse of an elderly loved one. You can provide extra support in encouraging them to be proactive in the maintenance of their health.
It is very important to understand their medical needs, including how frequently doctors' appointments should occur, and how to implement a low-intensity exercise regimen. Using mobile health tools like "smart" pill bottles can help alleviate some of the tasks on your end, since they remind patients to take their medicine, or you can use a calendar app to track and anticipate upcoming doctors' appointments. Ultimately, it's important to remain sensitive to changes in their health, to help monitor when independently living is no longer the best option.
4. In Case of an Emergency
Caregivers are often concerned when their elderly loved ones are home alone, especially since one out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year. This can become a major crisis if no one is present to help assist when they fall.
When falls and acute medical events (such as heart attacks or strokes) occur, each second that passes matters. Personal emergency response systems (PERS), which allow users to easily and quickly call for help in an emergency by pushing a button, can help provide caregivers with peace-of-mind should a loved one suffer a mishap. Also, mobile PERS solutions can take that one step further to strike the perfect balance between care and freedom. They include things like GPS capability, which could help locate an elderly parent in the event of an accident, automatic fall detection and two-way phone communication, giving new meaning to elderly independence for the healthy aging population as well as those living with chronic conditions.
5. Addressing Emotional Needs
Many elderly parents want to demonstrate their ability to continue managing their own lives, but the need for sincere companionship still exists -- even among those living with a spouse. Feelings of loneliness can have health consequences among the elderly. Research indicates that loneliness increases the risk of an untimely death by 45 percent among the elderly, according to a study by the University of California, San Francisco.
Meaningful emotional contact is essential for an aging parent -- even simple gestures, such as having others listen and share words of encouragement can positively influence their morale. With the vast popularity and presence we're seeing in adult mobile smartphone owners - seven out of ten seniors own a cell phone, mobile video chat can make visual communication possible when adult children live outside the region. Even if an initial training session is necessary, the ability to view each other's faces will be worth the effort.
Also, keep in mind that seniors are accustomed to leading productive lives, as are you, and their days should involve hobbies and engaging activities. Help arrange regular visits to the local community center for basic computer or senior aerobics classes. It's all about finding ways to help nourish a sense of belonging and purpose, which is something we all need!
The decision to have an elderly parent leave their home should not be driven by fear or concerns. Today's healthy seniors have new resources to make life easier as they continue enjoying the freedom of living independently. With today's innovative approach to the way we communicate with each other via technology, caregivers and the elderly can have strong confidence in the future.
For these reasons, we want you to know our Caregivers Are Available To Help Your Loved One Live Independently with the following services:
Assistance with daily grooming and hygiene needs.
Assistance with bathing and showering.
Assistance with walking, mobility and prescribed exercises.
Preparation of nutritious meals.
Transportation to doctor appointments.
Assistance in attending outside social events.
Perform light housekeeping and homemaker services.
Respite care for family. (Giving your temporary relief of caretaking for your loved one full time).
We can also customize a care plan to meet your specific needs!
And when you're ready, we partner with Independent Living, Assisted Living Communities and Board and Care homes to give us superior access to high quality choices to help make a tough decision easier. Meridian prides itself on providing a personal touch.
But we are more than just a referral service! We do not just give you names and phone numbers to call. We meet with individuals, their families, social workers and case managers to discuss and decide what is the best choice for the level of care needed. Taking into consideration lifestyles, challenges, wants and needs. This is a free service offered to you and your family.
We do not “blind” refer, meaning we have toured and met with the directors, owners and/or administrators of the places we recommend. Our Placement Specialists can navigate you through every step of the process and help you find the best care and perfect living environment. Our placement department can also give you valuable information and referrals for resources such as grants, fiduciary services, financial planning, and moving services. We are here to help find safe and secure housing, in caring and loving environments.
Best of all, our services do not just end when you decide on a place, we do weekly checks your first month to make sure everything is going well, you are never just stuck with your decision and if for some rare reason you are unhappy with your decision we will be more than happy to go through process again. Please call us (858) 529-1886 to schedule an appointment to speak with us and learn how we can help your family live more happy & independent lives! And visit our website for more information: http://www.meridianhomecare.info/
(Credit: Geeta Nayyar, M.D. via Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/geeta-nayyar-md/caregiving-5-ways-to-help…)