Caring for ageing parents is an issue that requires careful thought and planning. Understanding the basic needs of elders is the best way to tackle this issue. Anticipating the physical, emotional and mental well-being of your parent or family elder is the first step toward elderly care planning.
Safety is the most important thing to consider when planning care for an elder. Whether a parent or elder is living alone at home or with a family member or in an Assisted Living Facility, making sure he is safe in his environment is the key to elderly care planning. Is the home safe and easy to navigate? Do throw rugs or electrical cords create falling hazards? Does your parent have to climb stairs to reach the bedroom or bathroom? Regardless of his living accommodations, take the time to physically examine every room in the house to make sure it is a safe environment.
If necessary, take steps to install grab bars in the bathroom to help with balance and getting into and out of the shower or bath. Make sure non-skid mats or rugs are placed in areas around the tub or sink.
Make the living space "senior-friendly" for your elder in order to prevent slips and falls that cause serious and even life-threatening fractures and long-term hospital stays.
When planning care for an elder, get her involved as much as possible in the decision-making. Listen to what she says about home health care, assisted living or a nursing home. Be willing to compromise while at the same time keeping her physical needs a priority. Your compassion, understanding and patience will certainly come into play sooner or later. Your parent may be afraid of becoming a burden to the family, or she may fear being placed in a nursing home and forgotten. Do your best to reassure her that, no matter what, she is a valuable and beloved member of the family.
If your parent is still mobile and able to get out, encourage her to socialise with friends or peers at senior centres and community events, or to belong to groups that will help keep her feeling active and a part of society. Many seniors struggle with loneliness and depression, so keep the emotional needs of your elder in mind when planning for future care.
Some seniors are diagnosed with dementia such as Alzheimer's. In such cases, providing care at home may offer some challenges. However, do your best to provide medical help in the treatment of such conditions, and ensure that your elder is receiving and taking medications as prescribed, and is eating and taking care of hygiene. Assess his mental abilities or cognitive levels and, if necessary, seek the advice of his physician when it is time to plan for the future. Find out how conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease progress. Always be willing to adapt to growing needs of the elder, and provide him a safe and secure place to live that focuses on quality of life issues.
- How to Care for Aging Parents, Morris, Virginia, Workman Publishing, New York, 2004