How to Care for the Elderly

How to Care for the Elderly

If you are concerned that an elderly relative or loved one is having difficulty caring for themselves, it may be time to intervene and offer assistance. Take the time to assess your loved one’s needs before you begin assisting them. They may require assistance with their medical needs, or they may require additional assistance with their daily activities. If you are unable to care for them on your own, look for local resources such as assisted living facilities or in-home care services. Caring for others can be demanding, so make time for yourself as well!

Method 1 Providing Home Care

1. Assess your relative’s needs in collaboration with them. Before you can provide care for an elderly person, you must first determine what type of care will be most beneficial to them. Depending on their overall health and ability to manage day-to-day tasks, they may require anything from occasional assistance to continuous support. Talk to them, observe them, and collaborate with their healthcare providers to determine their needs.

Consider whether your loved one has difficulty performing basic tasks such as feeding themselves, moving around their home, getting dressed, or maintaining their hygiene. If this is the case, they may require home care from you or a professional caregiver.

If they can still perform the majority of their basic daily activities without assistance, you may only need to provide assistance on an as-needed basis. You could, for example, offer to come over once a week to assist with errands or household chores.

2. Maintain as much involvement in their care decisions as possible. If your loved one believes that other people make all of their decisions for them, they may be more resistant to receiving assistance. Include them in all conversations and decisions about their care to help them feel more independent and in control of their situation. Communicate with them openly and honestly, and solicit their feedback and opinions on any options you are considering.

For instance, you could say, “It appears that you’re having some difficulty keeping up with the housework these days, Dad.” Do you think it would be beneficial if I came over every couple of days to assist?”

Actively listen to what they have to say about their needs or their feelings about the care options you are considering. If they have any concerns, listen to them carefully without dismissing or downplaying them.

3. Install security features in your home. Whether your loved one is still living independently, living with you, or receiving live-in care, you can assist them by making their home environment safer and more accessible. Consult a doctor, an elder care specialist, or a physical or occupational therapist about the types of modifications that would be most beneficial to your loved one. They may, for example, require:

Installed grab bars or railings in bathrooms, hallways, and other living areas

Elevated toilet seats or shower seats

Stair climbers or ramps

Slip-resistant surfaces on stairwells, floors, and in showers

improved lighting in low-light areas of the house

Shower and sink anti-scald devices

4. Assist your loved one in remaining active. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that older adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Encourage your loved one to incorporate manageable levels of physical activity into their daily lives to help keep them healthy and happy.

Consult with their doctor or a physical therapist to determine the types and amount of physical activity that are appropriate for them. If your loved one has osteoarthritis, for example, they may need to stick to gentle, joint-friendly activities like swimming, stationary cycling, or light yoga.

Those who are unable to exercise on their own can still benefit from physical activity. Passive Range of Motion (ROM) exercises, for example, can help elderly people maintain joint mobility. These exercises involve moving the individual’s limbs to help limber up their joints. Request that a doctor or physical therapist demonstrate how to perform these exercises correctly.

Look for enjoyable activities that you can do together, such as nature walks or gardening.

5. Maintain your involvement in their medical care. The majority of older adults suffer from a variety of age-related illnesses and health conditions. To ensure that your loved one receives the best possible care, speak with them and their health care team to become acquainted with the specific issues they are facing. Keep an eye out for any new or worsening symptoms, and make sure they seek medical attention if their condition changes.

Familiarize yourself with any medications they use so you can be aware of any potential interactions or side effects. If they have difficulty remembering to take their medications, look for ways to help them stay organised, such as using a pill sorter or calling them on a regular basis to remind them.

Keep an eye out for common warning signs of a health problem, such as forgetfulness or confusion, falling or lack of coordination, weight loss or changes in appetite, or changes in mood or behaviour.

Emotional issues are also common in the elderly. Look for signs of depression or anxiety, such as irritability, sadness, a lack of energy, or a loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed.

6. Encourage them to interact with others. Spending time with friends keeps older adults physically, emotionally, and mentally healthier than those who do not. Encourage your loved one to engage in as much socialisation as possible, even if it’s just talking on the phone with a friend.

If they don’t have a large social network, you could suggest that they take classes or participate in other activities where they can meet new people, such as dances or book club meetings.

Spending time with grandchildren benefits many elderly people. If you have children and are caring for an elderly parent, try asking them to babysit or do other fun activities with the children, such as playing board games or reading books.

7. Offer to assist with errands and chores. People’s ability to manage day-to-day tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping can deteriorate as they age. Discuss with your loved one what you can do to assist them in meeting these needs.

You could, for example, sit down with them once a week to make a grocery list, then go to the store and get what they require.

If they have difficulty driving, offer to drive them to medical appointments, the store, or other places they need to go on a regular basis.

8. Discuss their finances with them. There are numerous expenses and financial difficulties associated with ageing, ranging from dealing with medical bills to covering the costs of home safety upgrades. If your elderly relative is retired, they may require extra financial assistance to cover their expenses. Discuss with them their financial resources (such as pensions or retirement savings) and devise a plan to assist them if necessary.

For example, if they want to stay at home but can’t afford their current rent or mortgage, you could talk about assisting them in finding a smaller apartment or condo that fits within their budget.

They may also be eligible for government assistance programmes to help them pay for things like heating bills or prescription medications.

Warning: The elderly are especially vulnerable to scams, so make sure to educate and protect them. Check their credit report at least once a year to ensure that no one has stolen their identity.

Method 2 Caring for an Elderly Person in the Hospital

1. Inquire about the hospital’s care with the staff. It can be frightening and overwhelming to have an elderly loved one in the hospital. You’ll feel more at ease and be in a better position to assist them if you understand their condition and treatment options. Make a list of questions to ask their medical team, such as “How long will they need to be hospitalised?”

“What treatment options do they have for their condition?”

“Can you tell me about the risks and benefits of this treatment?”

“How are you coping with their pain and discomfort?”

“How long will the recovery period last?”

Tip: Be ready to answer questions as well. Depending on their condition, your elderly loved one may find it difficult to answer important questions about their symptoms, health history, or medications they are currently taking.

2. Discuss your loved one’s treatment preferences with them. It’s critical to keep your elderly loved one as involved in major treatment decisions as possible. If their condition allows it, discuss possible treatment options with them. If not, do your best to carry out their wishes.

For example, if you know they want to avoid surgery, inquire about less invasive treatment options with their doctor.

Try to talk to your loved one about their wishes while they’re still healthy, so you’ll know what to do if they need to be hospitalised.

3. If their needs are not being met, they should be advocated for. If your elderly loved one is very ill or has communication difficulties, they may have difficulty speaking up for themselves. If you believe they are not receiving the care they require, don’t be afraid to speak up for them. Be assertive when asking questions or letting their care team know if they require assistance. For example, you may need to:

Ascertain that they are receiving their medications on time.

Keep track of the results of medical tests.

Speak with various members of their care team to ensure that everyone is on the same page about their treatment plan.

If you or a loved one does not understand any aspect of their treatment, seek clarification.

4. Bring them any supplies they may require. Pack a bag with anything your loved one might need from home to keep them comfortable while they’re in the hospital. Make sure to include things like:

Warm, comfortable clothing, such as a few loose-fitting sweaters and soft sweatpants, is recommended.

Socks or slippers with non-slip soles

Toiletries and personal care items, such as a hairbrush, comb, toothbrush, glasses case, or dentures

A soft and cosy pillow

A list of their prescriptions

Items of entertainment, such as favourite books, magazines, or DVDs

A framed photograph, a vase of flowers, or their favourite bathrobe

5. They are frequently visited. Stop by as often as you can to keep your loved one from feeling alone and to ensure they are receiving the care they require. Try to be present during times when you know they may be lonely or distressed, such as mealtimes or when they need to have tests or medical procedures performed.

Invite other family members and friends to join you. This will not only make your loved one feel supported and cared for, but it will also relieve some of your stress.

6. Take care of any necessary paperwork. A hospital stay is always fraught with red tape. Find out if your loved one has a health care directive (such as a living will, health care proxy, or power of attorney) and the relevant documents if at all possible. If your loved one is unable to sign consent forms or other hospital paperwork, you may be required to do so.

Keep track of any important documents related to your loved one’s hospital stay, such as bills, care and discharge instructions, and benefit explanation statements.

7. Make a plan for your hospital discharge. Before your loved one leaves the hospital, speak with their care team about the type of care they will require in the future. Make sure you have information such as dosing and timing instructions for any medications they must take.

Any special home care techniques you may need to know, such as changing wound dressings, caring for feeding tubes or catheters, or safely moving your loved one from one location in the home to another.

Call these numbers if you have any questions or concerns about their condition after discharge.

Details on what to expect during the recovery period

Method 3 Finding Elder Care Resources

1. Request a referral from their doctor for a home healthcare provider. If you determine that your loved one requires in-home medical care, their doctor may be able to recommend a trustworthy provider. They may also be able to prescribe specific in-home services (like physical therapy or nursing), making it easier to obtain insurance coverage for this type of care.

You can also contact your loved one’s insurance company or your local health and human services office to learn about local providers and how to cover associated costs.

If your relative requires assistance with daily activities but does not require round-the-clock medical care, consider hiring an in-home care provider to assist them with tasks such as housecleaning, cooking, dressing, and bathing. If you don’t have the time or resources to assist your loved one throughout the day, this can be a huge help.

2. If home care is not an option, look into nursing homes. Living in one’s own or a relative’s home isn’t always practical or affordable for the elderly. If you believe your loved one cannot live independently and you are unable to provide the necessary home care, look into nursing homes or other residential care options in your area.

People who have a number of medical issues may benefit from staying in a nursing home that has nurses and doctors on staff.

Alternatively, if your loved one requires assistance with daily activities but does not require nursing care on a daily basis, an assisted living facility may be a good option.

If you live in the United States, you can search LeadingAge’s member directory for reputable elder care facilities and services in your area.

When selecting a facility, speak with the staff as well as the residents if possible to get a sense of the services offered and whether the facility will meet your loved one’s needs.

3. Look for financial aid programmes in your area. If you are having difficulty covering the costs of care for a loved one, you may be eligible for assistance. Depending on their requirements, you may be able to obtain funding to cover expenses such as medical bills, housing costs, utilities, continuing education tuition, or food costs. Look up the benefits available in your area on the internet.

If you live in the United States, go to https://www.benefitscheckup.org to see if your loved one is eligible for any benefits.

If you are caring for an elderly relative, you may be eligible for tax breaks.

4. Look for programmes that provide elderly people with meals and other services. In addition to financial assistance, there are a variety of programmes and services available to assist seniors with other needs. Your community, for example, may provide resources such as free meals delivered to your loved one’s home, assistance with home repairs or home safety renovations, or free or low-cost legal services for seniors.

Your local government’s website may have information about resources and services for elders in your area.

Conduct a search for “resources for seniors near me.”

5. If you require emotional support and advice, look for a support group. Caring for an elderly relative can be difficult. A support group can be very helpful if you need additional support or advice from other people who are in a similar situation. Search for caregiver support groups in your area, or use a database such as one of the following:

Community Resource Finder from the AARP: https://www.communityresourcefinder.org

https://eldercare.acl.gov/eldercare-locator/

6. Hire a geriatric care manager to assist you in making sound decisions. A geriatric care manager is a person who specialises in assessing the needs of the elderly. A geriatric care manager can assist you if you are unsure what type of assistance or resources your loved one may require. Find out about geriatric care management services in your area by contacting your local government’s ageing agency.

The Aging Life Care Association is a professional geriatric care manager organisation. They can put you in touch with someone who can give you advice on care options for your loved one. Find professionals in your area by searching their member database.

Method 4 Dealing with Challenges

1. Be prepared to face opposition from your loved one. Many elderly people want to be as self-sufficient as possible, and they may resent your efforts to care for them or connect them with eldercare resources. If this occurs, try to be patient and understanding. Take the time to discuss your concerns with your loved one in a respectful and open-minded manner, and do your best to accommodate their preferences.

Sit down with them when both of you are calm and relaxed to have an open and honest discussion about their needs.

Bring in other family members to talk to them if necessary. If you have the support of the rest of your family, it may be easier to persuade your relative that they require additional assistance. It may also be beneficial to seek advice from their doctor.

Try suggesting a trial run once you’ve developed a care strategy. If your loved one understands that the arrangement isn’t set in stone and can be changed if it isn’t working for them, they may be more willing to accept your care.

2. If they are having difficulty communicating, seek advice from their doctor. Many elderly people have difficulty communicating, either due to cognitive changes or physical health issues such as hearing loss. If you’re having trouble communicating with a loved one, ask their doctor for recommendations on resources that can help.

For example, if they have trouble hearing you, consult with their doctor about whether hearing aids might be beneficial. If your loved one has profound hearing loss, you could also look into sign language training programmes for you and them.

If your loved one has trouble speaking, ask their doctor to refer them to a speech-language pathologist who can help them develop new communication skills.

Doctors and other healthcare professionals who have worked with elderly patients may have received special training in dealing with communication issues.

3. Seek the help of family and friends. Caring for an elderly relative on your own can be exhausting. If you require assistance, do not be afraid to reach out to your support network. Discuss with family and friends how they can assist.

For example, you could ask one of your siblings if they would mind taking turns doing grocery shopping or household chores.

It can also be beneficial to have someone to vent to at times. Even if a friend or relative cannot provide practical assistance, they may be able to lend a sympathetic ear when needed.

When asking for assistance, keep in mind the person’s specific skills and resources. For example, if your aunt enjoys cooking, you could ask her to assist you in preparing meals from your grandmother on occasion.

4. Self-care is essential for preventing caregiver burnout. You won’t be able to care for a loved one if you don’t take care of yourself first. Make time to eat healthy foods, take care of your own health, and do things you enjoy, such as working on hobbies or spending time with friends.

If you’re having difficulty finding time to care for yourself, ask a relative or friend to fill in for you for a while so you can take a break. For example, you could request that your brother stay with your mother for the evening so that you can go out with friends.

If you require a longer break, you may be able to find respite care in your area. If you can’t afford respite care, look for community-based volunteer groups in your area.

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