Caring for the Elderly: Little Things Can Help a Lot
As people age, most of them want desperately to stay in their own home. They may have been in it for 40 or 50 years, having worked for much of that time to pay it off with the goal of being in it for the rest of their lives. But as that time approaches, many people find this dream impossible. They discover that their physical limitations or mental status may make it impractical to stay in their lifelong home, and they feel they have no choice but to turn to long-term care in a retirement community or skilled care facility.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with these options when they are warranted, there are many people who see them as a second choices or even a last resort. When the people we care about begin to experience problems due to their old age, we can often play a role in giving them some control over the issue of where they should live. In many cases, they are just a few steps away from being able to stay at home, and you may be part of the team that can make that happen.
The elderly have a much better chance of living in their own homes if they can maintain their independence in the following key areas. You may be able to help them in all these areas.
The older we get, the better the chance that we require some medical care. It could be as simple as daily medication, or it may be as complex as a course of physical therapy to recover from an injury or health problem. Look for ways you can help out. You might be able to help them organize their medication to be sure that they are taking the right things at the right time. They might be willing to let you set up their organizers each week, or you may be able to quietly review their own setup to ensure that it is correct. You can use an online pill identifier to make sure they have things right.
Many elderly people struggle to maintain a safe home environment. They may lack the mobility to clean properly or to check smoke detector batteries. They may need furniture rearranged to make it easier to get around. There could even be renovations they need to accommodate them, like grab rails in the bathroom or wider doorways.
Some time spent in the home on a casual visit could highlight ways that you can help. Maybe you could help relocate kitchen items to make it easier to reach frequently-used utensils and containers. You might help to secure loose rugs or carpet to reduce fall risks. You can find things to do, but just be unobtrusive with it.
It is a sad commentary on our society that many criminals think of the elderly as their first choice for victims. They know that many of the complexities of finances and technology are beyond the grasp of older people, so they exploit them with scare tactics like fake bill collection or delinquent taxes. Try to find a way to gracefully insert yourself into their communications. See if it would be okay for you to screen their mail to weed out fraudulent things, and offer to monitor their email if they use it.
When an elderly person is victimized financially, their family often chooses extreme reactions like getting power of attorney. This loss of independence, coupled with their existing feelings of isolation, can really impact them negatively. You may be able to watch for these predators and keep the person from being exploited. Our golden years should be a time to enjoy family, friends, hobbies, and most of all, freedom. While some people love the idea of selling the house and moving elsewhere, others want to stay right in the house as long as possible. If there is someone in your life who feels that way, look for ways that you can gently help make that happen.
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