Many seniors prefer to spend their golden years in their own home, or living with family. However, as they age, their needs increase, and they may need to rely more on others for their basic care. Caring for an elderly relative is fulfilling and meaningful. It can also be challenging.
A Guide on Caring for an Elderly Relative
If you are taking care of a family member in their home or yours, you can alleviate the stresses and maximize the good times together if you follow some guidelines.
1. Understand Exactly What They Need
There is a big difference between taking care of your 80-year old mother who still drives and takes a few pills per day, and taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or other chronic illnesses that become more common as people age.
When you decide to become the primary caregiver for someone, understand what kind of tasks they need help with. Perhaps they can no longer drive at night and need a lift to their weekly bingo game. Perhaps they need assistance with daily hygiene like showering and brushing their teeth.
Are you prepared to take care of your parent’s bodily functions? If you don’t have a nursing background, you may not be ready for the time-consuming personal care some seniors need.
2. Be Realistic About Your Schedule
Sometimes it is hard to realize our once vibrant parents need more help than they used to. They may take much longer to get ready in the morning or to perform basic tasks like getting dressed.
If you and your partner have full-time jobs, think about how much care your relative requires and how much time you have to spare. Are you willing to give up all your evenings and weekends to take care of Grandpa?
Are you a member of the “sandwich generation?” Nearly 50 percent of people between the ages of 40 and 50 have both a parent and a child they are taking care of simultaneously! Having both kids and an aging relative under your roof at the same time increases your caregiving responsibilities exponentially.
You may need to consider engaging others to help with some of the day-to-day requirements your relative needs to stay happy and healthy.
3. It Takes A Village
The best advice on caring for an elderly relative is to enlist help. Like raising kids, it takes a village to take care of the older generation.
If you have nearby siblings or cousins, enlist their help once a week so you can go out to dinner and get a break once in a while.
Check out community options in your neighborhood. Maybe there is a senior center nearby with classes and activities where your relative could spend a few afternoons a week.
Don’t be ashamed of asking for help. While it can be profoundly enriching to get to know your family member in their twilight years, it can be exhausting to bear all the responsibility on your own.
4. Bring in Friends and Neighbors
It’s imperative to enlist others to assist in caring for an elderly relative at home. It can take the burden off of you, make your relative happy, and give some pleasure to others.
Is there a teenager at home this summer in your neighborhood? Maybe he could do the grocery shopping for your family on the weekdays when you are at work, or give your relative lift to the mall.
Often children enjoy reading aloud to seniors: it helps their reading skills and creates a cross-generational friendship enjoyed by both.
5. Get Professional Assistance
If you need assistance dispensing medication, maintaining your relatives’ daily hygiene, or any other task that goes with round-the-clock caregiving, you might consider getting professional assistance.
Say they take too many pills to keep track of, you may need a visiting nurse to make sure everything is being taken appropriately. If you want someone with medical training to be on hand because your family member has special medical needs, having a professional caregiver can make all the difference.
There are all different kinds of arrangements, depending on what works best for your family and your budget. These helpful tips can help you determine what level of care is most appropriate for you.
Some helpers come in every weekday and spend the day. They can help bathe your relative, cook a meal, take them for a walk, and spend time with them. If you do not need that much help, you can sometimes arrange for someone to come by twice a week, or to perform specific errands.
If you need more help, you can even find people who will spend the night at your house, so they can take care of anything that happens at night and give you a chance to rest.
6. Take Time For Yourself
When you get the help of a friend or a professional caregiver, you are taking care of your relative by taking care of yourself. Caregivers can quickly burn out.
To be the best possible child, niece, or granddaughter to an ailing relative, you need to stay healthy yourself and maintain your own life as well. By getting others to help, you can maintain balance in your life so you can bring your best self to the loved one who needs you.
7. Needs Evolve Over Time
Your parent may be fine for now living in your house with a companion coming by once a week. However, stay alert to signs that their needs are increasing. The relative who was once mobile and lucid may suddenly need more assistance as time goes by.
Caring for an Elderly Relative: The Most Important Job
Caring for an elderly relative allows you to give back to someone who has been there for you your whole life. You may learn valuable family secrets and come to a deeper understanding of your past that you never had before. It can also take its mental and physical toll, as caring for someone in their twilight years can be tiring and sad as their facilities fade. However, help is available to assist your entire family through this important life passage.