How To Keep Your Aging Loved Ones Independent
As you are caring for your aging parents, you may feel stressed, anxious or, even, burned out. But, like you, your loved one may be experiencing the same emotions — his or hers, though, are often tied to a loss of independence.
By helping parents overcome these complex emotions, you’ll not only boost their spirits and morale but, also, make your role as caregiver much easier. Here are simple ways to help elderly parents maintain their independence and self-confidence as they age:
Add and remove elements to increase safety
Ensure your parent feels confident and comfortable in their home, or in their living space in yours, by integrating modifications before the mobility and stability become problems for them. That can be adding bathroom railing and shower benches in the bathroom, chair lifts to navigate the stairs, or removing throw rugs that can lead to trips and falls. And make sure that a room has plenty of good lighting, to also help mitigate potential accidents. And smart technology like smartphone-based monitoring systems and thermostats can help make it easy for caregivers to ensure their aging parents are safe and secure. These simple changes can make a big difference for you and your parent now and in the future.
Organize things the way they like
We all feel more confident when we can access what we want when we need to, whether we think about it or not. That type of certainty and confidence are critical for our aging loved ones who may feel like they are losing control over other elements in their lives. So organize things – the mail, the TV remote, the refrigerator, medicine – where they prefer to keep them and maintain those placements so they can develop comfortable, dependable routines.
Structure routine interactions with others
Loneliness is a real challenge for those aging. But it doesn’t just take an emotional toll — among the elderly, loneliness increases the risk of death by 45 percent . You can sign your parents up for activities appropriate to their mobility, arrange for video chats and phone calls, and help get them comfortable using email, if they are not already. And regular visits with and from loved ones – grandchildren, neighbors – can be a great way to maintain close bonds and keep them mentally engaged. If they are mobile, help them meet friends at the gym or for a cup of coffee. Home visits can be great, too, even though they may cause some anxiety and hand-wringing in the days leading up to it – do we have the right food for lunch? Will there be enough places to sit? But these will almost certainly be enjoyable experiences in the moment and can provide fond memories for everyone involved.
Have them help with errands and chores
Your mother or father may have strong opinions about the groceries, or the items they need from the drug store, or they may simply want to stop by the bookstore while they are out. Have them lead in making shopping lists and scheduling errands, and as much as possible simply be a guiding hand – and, when the time comes, their friendly squire for the morning. And even if you have to do the heavy lifting for doing the laundry, they can help fold their clothes even if they are in a wheelchair.
Consider a pet
In that vein, and depending on your parent’s level of independence, a low-maintenance pet could be a welcome addition. Pets have can provide much-needed companionship, while enabling aging adults to focus less on the long term and more on the here and now. Choose a pet that fits your loved one’s physical and mental abilities; if your parent is becoming less sure on their feet, a dog or cat may not be a good idea – fish or birds can be great options. And remember that you may be that pet’s primary caretaker, so choose an animal that won’t add too much work to your plate.
For more information on caring for your loved ones, visit the Caregiving section on HEALTHY ESSENTIALS®.
©Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2016