In this post, the team at Manage at Home have put together some tips to help elderly relatives cope and manage with growing older. With lots of actionable advice, this guide can be used to help extend your elderly relative’s freedom.
Most people list their independence among the things that are most important to them. Small children are proud of the day they learn to ride their bike without stabilisers, teenagers enjoy the freedom that comes with passing their driving test, and senior adults seek to retain their independence for as long as possible.
So, it’s important to let ageing relatives make their own decisions, assuming they are of sound mind. Adult children tend to forget that their parents are 20 or more years older and wiser than they are. One of the worst things adult children can do, is be overpowering or treat them like children.
Unfortunately, as we age we sometimes must fight to remain independent. Anyone who is caring for an ageing loved one is likely to be familiar with this. It can take some creativity and gentle persuasion to help a loved one remain safe and independent at home. However, there are solutions, and some really innovative ways to help with any difficulties that come with age.
First up, we’d advise using gadgets, whether it’s for a present, or to solve a particular issue. If your relative is having difficulty, it’s likely that there will be others out there experiencing the same thing, and a gadget may be able to help. Surprisingly, there are a wide variety of household aids available to make life easier. Learn what an ageing relative considers his or her restrictions to be, then research what is available that will help them to get around those limitations.
Whether its opening jars, slicing bread, pouring the kettle or even grinding pepper, there are simple gadgets to make everything a little bit easier. There are also some useful products that can really help an older adult look after their home include door knob grips, remote controls, and clocks and phones with large numbers for easier visibility.
It’s also worth saying that a pair of kitchen scissors are very practical. They can be used to open snacks or bags of food, as well as for cutting things like celery or meat into cubes.
We’d advise removing any cluttered extra furniture lying around the house that might make it difficult for your elders to move around freely. Don’t forget to ensure all cables and wires are tucked away to prevent slips or falls.
Perhaps you can also have grab bars near the toilet and the shower. I know they aren’t the most stylish, but they will help. This is in addition to installing non-skid mats, strips, or pads in the toilet, bathtub or shower and other slippery areas of the house.
Another tip, is to make your relative feel useful and needed. From the very young to the very old, everyone wants to be useful. When you care for an older adult, do your best to make them feel like you still need their help and that they’re not a burden. Ask for help with tasks they can handle, such as:
- Folding laundry
- Organising drawers
- Opening the mail
- Writing shopping lists or household to-do lists
- Keeping you up to date on the news
- Prepping dinner – for example, chopping vegetables
It’s also important to stay physically active. Regular physical activity, no matter how mild, helps keeps both body and mind feeling balanced and positive.
Whether that’s taking your relative out for a walk or on holiday, regular exercise keeps blood flowing to the brain, and sharpens the mind. It can also relieve anxiety, tension, and even depression! Overall, it just makes people feel better.
It’s the same with staying mentally active. Your relative should be doing crossword puzzles, sudoku, and other brain games. Reading and writing are also great activities for mental stimulation. Having a sharp and active mind improves overall wellbeing.
You should also help your older relative to stay connected with family, friends, and the community. You might want to arrange for family and friends to visit or take them out regularly. Why not get them involved in a hobby? There’s usually lots going on in the local area, so encourage them to volunteer with any local church, community, or charity organisations
Or, just check in with them when you can — and chat. Some elderly folk who live on their own can go days without contact from others. If you live far away from your elderly relatives or are very busy with work, family, or other obligations, perhaps set a reminder on your smartphone to call once a week to just check in.
Other important things to consider are:
- Poor diet or eating habits – weight loss or no appetite – are they able to still cook for themselves? Do they stock their fridge with healthy food?
- Poor hygiene – do they have body odour? Are they bathing and changing their clothes like they used to? Are they neglecting their nails and teeth?
- Neglecting their home – is it not as clean as you remember?
- Mobility and driving – Are they still mobile? Can they get out of bed, up the stairs without slipping or falling? Can they still safely drive themselves to the local shop, doctor appointments, etc…?
If you spot any of these, then you need to take more action to make life easier for your elderly relative. At the end of the day, reach out and love your elders – after all, they’ve loved and cared for you all these years. Now it’s your turn.