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5 Ways To Help Elderly Loved Ones Live Independently

5 Ways To Help Elderly Loved Ones Live Independently

It’s difficult to witness the deterioration of the physical or mental abilities of an aging partner, parent, grandparent or other loved one. We remember back to when they were the strong ones and it can be hard to reconcile that image with their declining capabilities. Increasingly though many of us either are, or will, face a time when we have to take responsibility for their safety and comfort and it can seem overwhelming — both emotionally and financially.

Many of us, and our loved ones, would undoubtedly prefer to stay in our homes to ensure they are well taken care of and properly cared for. Even this can be a stressful choice as we ponder, as a real possibility, what might happen if an aging parent were to slip and fall with no one around to help or are if they were unable to follow hospital discharge regimens or daily routines on their own. Thankfully there are more options available than ever, home care of course can fill the gap we leave as we necessarily live our own lives especially as nursing home costs continue to increase. Also today’s technology and the convenience offered by the digital world can offer choices that can provide families with peace of mind as they help their elderly loved ones age independently.

Here are five things to consider when elderly parents choose to live home alone:

1. Make the most of home delivery

Of course we want our loved ones to get out and about and going shopping can be a vital part of that. But if there comes a time when driving gets challenging then we cannot risk them missing out on basic needs like food so consider using online food shopping.

If they don't currently use the internet then this could be a great opportunity to introduce them to it. For those that do, together, you can consider showing them how to food shop online so they feel more independent and in control of their own lives. It's easy to set up shopping lists for simple reordering and ensuring that they get at least the basics of what they need. If your loved one isn't comfortable going online then you can always place the order yourself, either in their own account or in yours so you know its getting delivered. It can also be one of the things that keeps you in contact and gives a focus to your interactions, something that some people can struggle with as they get older.

2. Prepare the Home

If you've ever had kids then you've probably been through the process of putting up stair gates, plug covers and the like. That was all about thinking about how different a home can be for someone else, in many ways it is a similar process for thinking about you might change a home for your loved ones' new requirements. Consider all the things you and they do in a day and then think, if you can't reach as high do you need to change the kitchen shelves, if you can't stretch so well do you need to think about how to make it easier to get in to and out of the bath and if your joints aren't as forgiving as once they were do you need rails on the stairs to help with balance?
Think especially about key areas like the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom and consider adding more lighting and removing trips hazards. These changes around the home are basic and simple to do, and can provide you with an added measure of confidence in having a parent live alone.

3. Helping with Health Care

If your loved one has come out of hospital or is on a daily course of medicines then supporting them to remain on top of their health regime when there’s no one there to remind them can be vital to ensuring them stay at home as long as they are able. Stay in contact with the doctor, pharmacist and/or nurse or care worker of an elderly loved one. You can provide extra support in encouraging them to be proactive in the maintenance of their health.

It is very important to understand their medical needs, including how frequently doctors’ appointments should occur. If driving is an issue then consider a deal with a trusted local taxi company who can pick-up and drop-off for regular appointments.

4. Emergency Contacts and Procedures

While no-one likes to think about the worst, it makes sense to consider it, plan for it and do what you can to ensure if it does happen that you've done what you can to ensure help arrives, quickly. When falls and acute medical events (such as heart attacks or strokes) occur, each second that passes matters. Make sure you know all the medicine they're prescribed, important number such as the doctor, nurse or care organisation. If possible make an arrangement with a neighbour who could pop round if you're worried. You can also leave a key with neighbours so you or they can gain entry.

There's a growing market for electronic and wireless Personal Emergency Response systems (PERS), which allow users to easily and quickly call for help in an emergency by pushing a button. The more sophisticated systems can detect of a person has fallen and they can also act as GPS tracker to offer families peace-of-mind and help with locating a loved one who may have suffered a mishap or gotten confused and wandered off.

5. Meeting Their Emotional Needs

Even the most stridently independent people can fall victim to loneliness and the solitude that can come from living alone. Couples too can be affected by these feelings which can have health consequences among the elderly.

Here again there are options - telecheck systems can place a daily call to check things are ok and The Silver Line is a free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. It's worth investing in a smartphone or tablet is possible giving the option of mobile phone chat with an aging parent. Even if an initial training session is necessary, the ability to view each other’s faces will be worth the effort.

In an area like this a good home care provider can be invaluable in helping to keep up attendance and engagement with hobbies and external activities. They can help arrange regular visits to the local community center for basic computer or senior aerobics classes. It’s all about finding ways to help nourish a sense of belonging and purpose, which is something we all need!

In the final analysis the decision to have an elderly parent leave their home should not be driven by fear or concerns. Today’s healthy seniors have new resources to make life easier as they continue enjoying the freedom of living independently. With today’s innovative approach to the way we communicate with each other via technology, caregivers and the elderly can have strong confidence in the future.

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