Nobody wants to confront the fact that their parents and other family members are getting older. It’s frightening and stressful, and it may appear to be a daunting task to plan for or take on their care. With some planning and assistance, you can ensure that your elderly loved ones are healthy, happy, and safe.
Part 1 Managing Difficult Behavior
1. Investigate old dynamics. If you’ve had the same power structure in your relationship for a long time, old patterns will start to emerge. This dynamic will continue if you are caring for someone who has always been controlling or critical.
It is unlikely that the behaviour will change if it is very old. Consider what is and is not acceptable. If you believe the behaviour is abusive toward you, you will need to either discuss boundaries or enlist the assistance of someone to assist you with caregiving.
Sometimes difficult behaviour is unexpected and has nothing to do with previous dynamics. If this is the case, you should try to figure out what’s causing it.
2. Recognize the source of the behaviour. If difficult behaviour is a significant departure from old patterns of behaviour, it is usually the result of ageing traumas. Have a conversation about what is bothering them.
While they are having an outburst, it is not a good idea to bring up what is bothering them. Wait until they have calmed down.
Don’t hold it against them. “I notice some things have been bothering you more recently.” What can I do to assist you while you’re dealing with them?”
3. Define your boundaries. If an elderly person has become overly controlling or aggressive, you may begin to dread paying them a visit. When it starts to have a negative impact on your quality of life, it’s time to confront them about it.
When confronting them, make it a point to emphasise how much you love them. “I will always love you, no matter what, for as long as you live,” you say.
Then explain why you’re having difficulty. “However, if you continue this behaviour, I will not want to spend as much time with you or visit you as frequently.”
Finally, make an appeal to their dignity. “I’m telling you this because I’d like you to help me by putting an end to this behaviour.” That way, we can make the most of our time together.”
4. Make use of alternative sources of care. If an elder’s difficult behaviour is causing you to become depressed, you may need to distance yourself from them.
Don’t blame the elderly when you tell them you won’t be able to provide all of their care. “I don’t believe I’ve been able to provide you with the best care possible,” you say. I want to make certain that you are completely cared for.”
Look for caregiver resources in your community. For advice and guidance in finding service providers, making plans, and caring for the elderly person in your life, visit http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/?intcmp=LNK-BRD-MC-REALPOSS-GTAC.
If it is truly unsafe for the person to live in their home without outside assistance, consider hiring a live-in nurse or moving into an assisted living facility where staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It is critical to discuss your parents’ (and other elderly relatives who rely on you) wishes for long-term care with them. Begin having these discussions as soon as possible, and make sure to include your siblings. Inquire about your loved one’s wishes for late-life care, and make sure to obtain all of the necessary legal documents, such as a power of attorney, to provide them with the care they have requested.
Part 2 Helping Them Cope With Changes
1. Determine the type of care they require. Determine their preferences and your availability to assist them. If you go into a conversation with facts in hand, you can anticipate any complaints they may have. You could ask your family doctor for resources and information on home health care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and social workers.
Try discussing all of your loved one’s care options with them. This will allow them to consider their options and select the one that appeals to them the most. For example, your loved one may feel more at ease having a home health care aide visit them a few days per week rather than moving into a nursing home.
Check the references of any eldercare services you are considering hiring.
You could also explain that accepting some care early on can help you maintain your independence in the long run.
2. Prepare them to be cared for. Some elderly people will be unwilling to accept care. As people age, they lose their independence, mental agility, and physical ability, so they may fight to maintain some control.
Choose a time when both of you are calm. If there are no other tensions, it will be easier to have an honest conversation.
If you encounter a lot of opposition, enlist the assistance of friends and family members. Saying things like “So and so said you’ve been having trouble with x” will lead to misunderstandings. Rather, invite friends or notify them that you’ve begun having these conversations.
Use positive words instead of words that make them feel like invalids, such as “client” instead of “patient,” or “friend” instead of “nurse.”
3. Demonstrate empathy for the person’s situation. As a result of the changes they go through, the elderly are especially vulnerable to depression. These changes may include incontinence, arthritis pain, vision loss, hearing loss, and loss of independence.
Put yourself in this person’s shoes and try to imagine how they are feeling. This will make approaching them from a place of compassion and love easier.
4. Assist them in determining or establishing their legacy. Choosing how an elder will live on after death is one method of coping with ageing. Helping them on their way can be therapeutic for everyone involved.
This could be as simple as bringing them up and discussing how they have impacted people’s lives: “Your children really respect you and take your advice to heart.”
Request that they write or dictate stories from their lives. Keep a written record of what they say, or have their writing bound.
If simply asking them isn’t working, you could get them involved in activities that will put them in contact with other people. You can keep track of what occurs there.
5. Allow them to be self-sufficient. Allowing them to make their own decisions prevents them from feeling out of control and lash out.
Even if it is not the most efficient way to do something, the ability to make even minor decisions will mean a great deal to an elder. Call and inquire about how they would like something done, whether it’s a doctor’s appointment or a trip to the park.
“When do you want to arrive?” and “Who should I invite?” are both good questions that may go unanswered if you are too concerned with making a quick decision.
If they are having difficulty making a decision, you can provide them with a few options. They still get to be the deciding factor this way.
Part 3 Giving Respect and Affection
1. Be patient and kind to them. Elderly people frequently forget things or repeatedly ask the same questions. They may be sluggish or even obstinate. Keep in mind that they usually can’t help themselves and aren’t trying to be difficult or cause you stress on purpose.
Try not to rush them. If they become distracted, gently remind them, but do not force them to move faster.
If speed isn’t absolutely necessary, don’t worry about it. We’ve been taught to do everything as quickly as possible in today’s world, but that may not be necessary for older people.
2. Respect their feelings and opinions. Elderly people may begin to feel ignored as their abilities change. They frequently feel as if they have lost the respect for which they have fought their entire lives.
Inquire about their thoughts on skills that they are knowledgeable about, such as gardening or cooking. “I’ve been trying to make that casserole you always used to make for potlucks, but I can’t seem to get it right,” for example. “What’s the trick?”
Inform them how their advice worked out. This will make them feel respected as well as useful. “Your advice was excellent! It was a big hit. I told them it was because of your assistance that it turned out so well.”
3. Make physical contact. Contact is essential for maintaining one’s mental health and happiness. As people age and friends and spouses die, they have less physical contact, which can worsen depression.
As you walk together, give them hugs, hold their hand, or hold their arm. Small gestures during everyday interactions can go a long way toward alleviating the social isolation that many elderly people face.
Touch can help lower blood pressure and even alleviate physical pain.
Part 4 Taking Care of Yourself
1. Allow for new dynamics to emerge. If you are caring for a family member, you have most likely been cultivating a relationship that has evolved over time. This may change as your roles are reversed.
Aging family members may become enraged because they no longer have authority over you. Allow them to work through their feelings of rage. Things are changing, but everything will settle down eventually.
You may anticipate that increased contact will deepen or improve your relationship, but keep in mind that old emotions and ways of interacting may no longer be appropriate in your new role. Don’t set unrealistic goals for yourself.
2. Pray or meditate. To get through difficult times, you may need to open yourself up to spirituality. If this works for you, make sure to stick to a routine even when things are going well.
Meditation, in particular, is a long-term commitment. If you meditate, try to do so at least once a day for a few minutes. The most basic form of meditation is simply sitting with your eyes closed and counting your breaths up to ten. When your mind wanders, simply bring it back to the breath.
Spiritual practises involve self-forgiveness. It is an opportunity to examine your feelings without feeling guilty or ashamed, and to simply accept yourself.
3. Relax and enjoy yourself. Visit friends, go to the movies, or enjoy a glass of wine. This may appear difficult at first, but it is just as important as any other aspect of your life.
It might be too difficult to be spontaneous. Try to incorporate a fun activity into your schedule, or simply set aside some time for yourself a few times per week.
Having free time built into your schedule will help your elder understand why you are unavailable.
4. Speak with your friends and family. As you take on additional responsibilities, your support system will become even more important. Make an effort to share any difficult experiences with the people who are most important to you.
Don’t put too much pressure on a single person. Your spouse is likely to understand you the best, but you don’t want all of your conversations to revolve around caregiving. Talk to friends who seem to be on the periphery of your inner circle. You may come across people who have had similar experiences.
Make it clear whether you want advice or not. Sometimes you just need to get something off your chest, but the person you’re speaking with assumes you’re looking for a concrete solution. Tell them if you just want to rant or if you want their advice.
Part 5 Encouraging Social Interaction
1. Take them to a senior centre where they can participate in activities. Aging and becoming less mobile can be very isolating, so ensuring that the elderly person in your care has plenty of opportunities to interact with others their age will provide entertainment and comradery, which will have both physical and mental health benefits.
Many activities at senior centres, such as bingo, music, exercise, and games, are intended to improve cognitive function. Encourage them to participate in these activities, and if they are hesitant, accompany them.
Make sure they have everything they need, such as a hearing aid, to participate in the conversation.
Look into senior transportation options in your area. Some senior centres have their own shuttles that transport visitors to and from the facility. There may also be a special senior shuttle in your area that will transport people to and from their destination for a low fee.
2. Assist them in continuing to participate in activities they enjoy. Nothing is more heartbreaking than having to give up a hobby or pastime that you have enjoyed for many years. Helping senior citizens stay active can also help to slow the ageing process.
If they are no longer able to participate in sports, take them to games in person or watch games together on TV. Make sure they are getting enough exercise in other ways as well.
If failing eyesight makes artistic pursuits difficult, ask them for advice on a quilt you’re working on, help them choose paint colours for a room redecoration, or take them to an art museum.
Take religious senior citizens to their place of worship for services.
3. Regular visits are encouraged. Schedule regular visits to your elderly relatives or friends on your calendar so that they become a regular part of your routine. Showing up, even if only for a brief visit, will demonstrate that you are thinking of them and will give them something to look forward to.
To avoid depression and loneliness, elderly people should see family or friends at least three times per week. Unfortunately, emailing is ineffective.
Part 6 Ensuring Health and Safety
1. Maintain a record of their medications. Elderly people frequently have health issues that necessitate multiple medications, such as pills, diabetic testing, and even injections. If keeping track of these medications becomes too difficult for you or the elderly person, consult with their doctor. You might be able to arrange for a registered nurse to come to their house once or twice a week to assist with medication management.
Sort pills into a pill box with the days of the week labelled. If they require different medications in the morning and evening, sort morning pills into a pill minder labelled with a specific colour, and afternoon or evening medications into a different pill minder labelled with a different colour, or use a single box with multiple rows for medications to be taken at different times of the day.
Keep a daily log of medications taken, doctor’s appointments, and any medical problems they encountered. If something goes wrong or they end up in the hospital, the records will assist doctors in determining what happened and what to do next.
The log book will also help your elderly friend remember if they have already taken their medications for the day, so they don’t get confused and double-dose themselves.
2. Consult with their doctors and pharmacists. Some elderly people become overmedicated and take so many pills per day that it becomes confusing and may be unnecessary. Going over each medication with the doctor and pharmacist on a regular basis can help prevent this problem.
If the person sees more than one doctor because they have multiple health issues, it is critical that all of their doctors are aware of all of the medications in their regimen. When certain drugs are combined, they can have adverse effects.
The pharmacist should be able to explain everything you need to know about medication timing and potential side effects or adverse reactions.
If they experience any adverse reactions after starting a new medication, they should contact their doctor and pharmacist right away.
3. Keep their physical safety in mind. Making changes to their environment helps to prevent falls and other accidents. People prefer to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible rather than move in with relatives or into a nursing home. You can help make this possible by assessing how the home’s features may pose hazards and modifying them to make them safer when possible.
If the elderly person in your life is still living in their own home, consider hiring an ageing in place expert to assist you in making modifications such as shower handrails.
If climbing the stairs is difficult or impossible, you may want to consider installing a chair lift to prevent falls. Ramps, on the other hand, can be installed to accommodate wheelchairs.
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