A Caregiver’s Guide
It is difficult for most people to admit that they are in need of help as they age. The thought of giving up ones’ independence or the need to rely on someone else for care is challenging and often met with much resistance. But keeping your elderly loved one safe and independent is crucial to their mental and physical well-being. This caregiver’s guide will hopefully help in making it easier to navigate during these challenging times.
If you have noticed that your loved one seems to need more care and supervision but is steadfast in wanting to remain in their home and live independently, here are some tips to keeping your elderly loved one safe, this may be a good time to assess their safety and well-being.
This includes, bathroom safety, stair and rug safety, proper nutrition, personal hygiene and medication management.
How Safe is Your Loved One?
1. Bathroom Safety
Check to make sure the bathroom is a safe place for them. Most falls happen in and around the bathroom. Double check that there are grab bars in the shower and the toilet seat is at the right height.
2. Stair and Rug Safety.
- Many falls happen due to unsecured or frayed rugs. Therefore, it is necessary to inspect all rugs, including area/throw rugs in the home. Be sure they are safely secured and corners or edges are not curling up.
- Stairs are another place where unforeseen falls occur. Handrails should be secure, the carpet in good condition and no-skid strips are placed on any hardwood stairs.
- If your loved one uses a scooter, rollator or walker, ramps should be secured and furniture in the home is strategically placed to avoid accidents.
- To avoid falls, determine if they can easily get in and out of their chair or on and off the sofa without losing their balance. If this appears to be an issue, a cane or walker may be necessary to safely transition to an upright or sitting position.
3. Proper Nutrition for the Elderly.
- Since nutrition is a major concern for the elderly, check the refrigerator and pantry to be sure there are enough nutritional foods for them to eat. This is critical for their health and wellbeing.
- Assess if your loved one can easily prepare their own food. If not, arrange for food preparation or meal delivery. This is very important for them to continue to meet their nutritional needs.
- If arthritis or hand tremors are making it difficult to eat, they may start skipping meals to avoid the struggle of getting food into their mouth. However, there are utensils on the market that can assist them with this issue.
- Make sure that all food, as well as eating utensils, plates, bowls and cups are easily accessible and user friendly. Because eating may start to become a chore, the likelihood of getting the proper nutrition may very well be compromised.
4. Personal Hygiene.
- If your loved one has agility issues, make sure they can properly toilet and clean themselves. Installing grab bars next to the toilet and having a raised toilet seat often alleviates these concerns.
- Getting in and out of the shower/tub can be incredibly dangerous for people as they age, especially for those who have balance issues. Installing non-skid bath and shower mats, as well as grab bars in and outside of the shower is strongly encouraged.
- If arthritis or tremor issues are preventing them from getting dressed, they may not change their clothes often enough. There are, however, several dressing aid products on the market to help them dress independently.
- You may find that your loved one is not bathing enough. Perhaps this chore has become too difficult for them. You may want to consider enlisting outside help, such as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant). They can help to ease this burden for both you and your loved one.
5. Medication Management.
The proper dispensing of medications should not be under estimated! The number of prescribed medications increases as one ages, making it more difficult to keep track of the medication schedule. Instituting a medication management system, will help to avoid medication mismanagement.
If you are concerned about an aging loved one, consider seeking out the professional advice of an In-Home Care Agency, Social Worker or Geriatric Specialist. They can help assess and determine the needs of your loved one. The goal of these professionals is to help you keep them safe while they continue to live independently.
As a family caregiver, it can be difficult to remain objective. In addition, It can be challenging for your elderly loved one to listen to you. You know how it goes… those closest to you... This, however, can be helped by bringing in a trained professional to help mediate the situation.