It is challenging to witness the physical and mental deterioration of our elderly relatives. Whether it is an ageing partner, parent, grandparent or other, we are tempted to take control and intervene in all aspects of life. It might even feel like you need to encourage them to leave their home and enter an institution.
A better solution would be to support the elderly relative to maintain as much independence as possible. As humans, we like to be in our homes with a sense of security and familiarity. We also want to maintain our independence to direct our life as we choose, maintaining the quality of living we have loved.
Consequently, it is important to find ways to support an elderly relative to maintain this independence. Fortunately, you can do much to fill the necessary gaps while helping your loved ones live their own lives.
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Encourage the use of home delivery
While your elderly relative might not be happy to jump online to make the order, you can take their shopping list and organise for it to be delivered. Getting to the food shop can become challenging, especially when mobility is limited. Consequently, having all the necessities turn up at the front door takes the pressure of resupplying with the necessities.
You might find some resistance to allowing you to pay for this online order from their bank account. Instead, why not pay the bill for them and allow them to pass the cash on to you.
Home health and safety
Ensuring a home is safe for someone with restricted mobility and reduced mental capacity takes a good deal of thought. Like when you child-proof your home, you need to walk around and consider the potential hazards that might befall someone with limitations. For instance, you might want to include a handlebar above the bath to help the person get in and out more easily. It might be a good idea to reduce clutter to fewer trip hazards. Equally, lowering shelves and adding a lift or rails on the stairs can help.
Support with healthcare
One of the biggest concerns is the correct taking of medications. Medicines are often essential for the maintenance of life and reduction in pain in later life. Consequently, you may want to invest in an automatic pill dispenser with an accompanying mobile app, dispensing the right medication and sending alerts to your phone if necessary.
You might also want to contact the local pharmacist and doctor, so you are proactive in their healthcare and can intervene if necessary.
Alarms and cameras
The biggest concern for an elderly relative is that they fall or become ill, and you are not there to offer immediate care and intervention. On a basic level, you may want to get to know your relative’s neighbours, encouraging awareness in them of the potential for emergency intervention.
However, more effective is the growing number of devices on the market. There are Personal Emergency Response Systems that summon help with the press of a button. These devices can be worn on the wrist or around the neck, so they are close at all times. Some of the more sophisticated versions of these devices have a GPS tracker in them, and you will be able to see your loved one move around the room. For those with dementia or other conditions that limit mental capacity, these devices give peace of mind when the relative might wander.
One of the more unseen problems of the elderly is loneliness. It is especially common for those who have been widowed to become isolated. Connecting with a tablet or other smart technology is one way to talk to your relative a little daily without needing to be in their homes. Equally, you can offer phone numbers for organisations such as The Silver Line, where friendship is available over the phone.
Small interventions with permission
Even these small interventions need to be undertaken with the support of the elderly relative. Working to agree to these measures with the person involved is another act of honouring their independence. While there might come the point when a care home is the most practical solution, these interventions can push back this moment some.