For millions of people around the world, one of the biggest stressors in life is caring for an elderly or aging parent. You want to let your parents retain their independence, but sometimes their lack of mental or physical health can put them at risk.
In these situations, what can you do to keep them safe and independent in their own home?
You Aren’t Alone
If you’re left caring for an elderly or aging parent, then you can rest easy knowing you aren’t alone. According to statistics gathered by the Caregiver Action Network, 29 percent of the U.S. population provides care for chronically ill or disabled family members during any given year – and they spend an average of 20 hours per week doing so.
The “free” care that adult children provide for their parents is estimated to be worth $375 billion a year. That’s nearly twice what’s spent on professional nursing home and homecare services.
The average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who is both married and employed. In 37 percent of cases, they also have children or grandchildren living with them. This means that caregiving isn’t their primary responsibility, but rather an additional, necessary obligation.
As an adult caregiver, it’s easy to feel lonely and isolated. You may feel like your entire life is being given up to ensure your parent can be comfortable, happy, and safe. But it’s important that you avoid being so hard on yourself. Instead, you should identify ways in which you can help your parent care for themselves.
7 Smart Things You Can Do
A lot of what you can do to help your parents retain their independence has to do with their current mental and physical state. Assuming they’re well enough to be alone for extended periods of time, you can do the following to relieve some of your burdens.
- Have Frank Conversations
Open dialogue is very important. You don’t want animosity to build up, so it’s imperative that you have frank conversations with them about short and long-term plans. At some point, they may have to move into a facility and it’s best for both of you if you have this conversation as early as possible.
- Install Better Lighting
Lighting is a big issue for many seniors. Sight is one of the first senses to deteriorate and poor lighting in the home can result in trips and falls. You can help your parent avoid problems by going through and installing better lighting solutions. Brighter lights, overhead lights, and more natural light are all beneficial.
- Invest in a Lift Chair
One of the biggest issues for elderly individuals is mobility. A lack of mobility makes it difficult to do everyday tasks and can result in dangerous falls. If your parent has a particularly challenging time sitting down and getting up, one thing you may want to do is encourage them to purchase a lift chair. Lift chairs give even the most immobile person the ability to sit down and stand up without the need for assistance. It’s a big help – especially when nobody is around.
- Purchase Sensor or Alert Solutions
Are you familiar with fall detection sensors and alerts? These are solutions that seniors wear around their neck or wrist. Should they fall down or need help, the sensor can be automatically or manually engaged to warn first responders and call them to the scene.
There are a variety of different products on the market, so do your homework and find one that works for your situation. Some come with monthly contracts and activation fees, while others don’t require anything more than the initial purchase.
- Clearly Label Medication
Did you know that one in five elderly individuals is admitted to the hospital due to medication use at some point? Issues commonly stem from not taking medication, taking the wrong medication, ingesting the wrong amount of medication, or mixing drugs that shouldn’t be taken together.
Many of these issues are simple mistakes, but you can help your parent by clearly labeling medication and giving them written instructions. This way, they know exactly what to take and when to take it.
- Ask Neighbors to Stop By
If you live on the other side of town, or perhaps out of town, it doesn’t make sense for you to visit daily. However, it’s important that elderly individuals are checked up on regularly. One way you can ensure they’re always accounted for is by having a neighbor stop by on a regular basis.
One unobtrusive way of doing this is to have a neighbor get your parent’s mail and/or newspaper each day and personally bring it to the door. This gives them a chance to briefly check in on your parent and make sure they’re doing fine.
Know When to Seek Help
Caring for an aging parent is a huge responsibility that you shouldn’t take lightly. While there are plenty of services you can offer – as well as things your parent can do on his or her own – you must also be able to recognize when professional help is needed.
There are plenty of services available and you shouldn’t hesitate to find assistance when it’s no longer feasible for them to live independently.