Nearly 15 million older adults in the U.S. live alone, many feeling that they would be a burden on their families if they were to move in with them. In many cases they are ignored and cannot really maintain an active life without some help. So how can you be helpful without destroying their sense of independence?
In some cases, arranging for in-home care from a professional homecare facility may be the most effective. You could also arrange for any necessary therapy to be done in-home. And, having the appropriate doctors on speed-dial, too.
Here are a few specific things you can do that will make a big impact on the lives of those older people for whom you care.
Loneliness can be debilitating. Spending a few hours with a senior who lives alone will have a more powerful effect than any of the more rigorous activities described below. It does not matter what you do, your presence in their environment is healthful in and of itself.
When your senior has limited abilities to get out and about, bringing necessities of life to his or her home can be very helpful. And, if you can take your senior with you on shopping ventures, it enhances the experience while accomplishing the objective.
Medical Care Management
Doctor’s visits, dental care, eye care, foot care and physical or psychiatric therapy are frequently part of a senior’s routine. Making sure all of these bases are covered would be of significant help. In situations where an elderly individual cannot take care of him-or herself, set up a program of home health care where trained individuals can assist with medications.
Every year, over 600,000 seniors give up their car keys. That, of course, severely limits their ability to get to the places they need to go. Providing them with the necessary transportation to get to medical appointments would be a huge convenience for them. Even if you do not do the actual driving, setting up medical transportation with a professional provider makes it easy for the senior to arrange non-emergency transportation with just a phone call.
Freedom of Movement
Whether it is providing a walker or cane or something more sophisticated like a wheelchair or motorized mobile chair, it is important to make it possible for an older person to be able to move around comfortably and safely. If necessary, help arrange to install ramps, wider doors and handrails. Or, help acquire mobility devices like a hospital bed that raises and lowers, a chair for the shower and safety bars in key places. It makes getting from the bed to the shower easier for those with reduced mobility.
Proper nutrition and maintaining a balanced diet allows for a healthy and comfortable life. Many older people have dietary restrictions that must be accommodated. If these considerations are outside of your skillset, retaining a dietitian to set up a program would be a great gift to your senior.
While these ideas will help a senior about whom you care, you are not stuck with duties for which you may not be prepared. Home care (non-medical) or Home health care (medically trained help) are broadly available. Help is available from a few hours a day to round-the-clock care. You can pitch in as much as you and your senior agree is appropriate. The important thing is to make the day-to-day life as comfortable – and interesting – as possible.