How to Care for Seniors at Home?
Introduction: Ageing and Life
Have you thought about your parents getting older? While we know it is inevitable, we are not able to comprehend the extent of it’s implications. Ageing is not an individual experience, the entire family experiences this beautiful transition of life.
Our roles reverse; we become caregivers for our parents, who have taken care of us and nurtured us all our lives. It does not happen overnight, and the changes aren’t sudden. But the time does come when we start noticing the subtle effects of ageing. We need to understand the long-term effects and the care that they would need. Here is a guide on caring for our elderly loved ones at home and making this transition easier for them.
Things to Keep in Mind
Everybody wants the best for their loved ones, especially for their parents. Nothing is as satisfying as seeing our parents happy. While we want the best for them, it can be challenging to take care of everything considering the changes they are going through, both physically and mentally.
Here are a few activities that we can adopt to ensure their well-being and dignity. We can divide the activities we perform daily into two categories - Activities of Daily Life (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Life (IADLs).
Activities of Daily Life (ADLs) address those fundamental activities that allow individuals to care for themselves. These are personal activities like eating, mobility - getting up from their place and moving around to get things done for oneself, bathing, personal and toilet hygiene. It can be challenging to see one’s parents struggling with these essential activities, but we need to understand that it is even more difficult for them to depend on someone else for these things. It is crucial to have compassion and regularly check with them for each category of ADLs. Our proactiveness to observe and assess the level of disability or dependence can facilitate understanding their needs.
Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are those activities that allow an individual to live independently in a community. The ability to perform IADLs can significantly improve the quality of life. They include household chores like running errands, shopping, buying groceries, paying bills, operating phones or other devices, cooking, and cleaning. Their involvement in household chores decreases as they grow older, but it always helps if they still try to participate. This has two-fold benefits - it keeps them active, which is essential since exercising starts becoming difficult. Secondly, it gives them the satisfaction and happiness of being useful and having a purpose.
As people age, the fear of abandonment may sprout even when they are loved by their families unconditionally. Just like children, parents need to be shown that they matter, that they are loved.
Parents can sometimes be unreasonable too, and they might become more stubborn as their independence decreases. This can be a lot to deal with at times, but just like we understand and take care of kids, we need to understand and be there for our parents.
For instance, we might have seen our grandparents’ health deteriorate as they age; they often hear less; their vision gets weaker, and their movements slower. During these times, they prefer to be left alone because they feel that they might not be able to participate in all the family activities that they used to be a part of earlier. In order to keep them involved, we should try to be a little more adjusting. This will help them feel involved and encourage them participate in the discussions, games and activities. This, in turn, will bring your family closer and make everyone happier.
Here are some do’s and don’ts regarding home care for the elderly:
Converse and listen - Pay attention to the said and unsaid. Listen to the needs of your elderly, understand the nuance associated with it and create a clear passage to relay your thoughts. Conversations are vital to their well-being and keep them around fond memories.
Show empathy - The ageing process is not an easy one, so it is essential to show compassion towards our parents as they go through it. We never really understand what a person goes through until we look at it from their perspective. It helps us in understanding their needs and problems better.
Be compassionate - Caring for an elderly loved one requires a lot of effort and patience. Genuine concern for them will ease the process of ageing and have a positive effect on their physical and mental well-being.
Encourage them - Be supportive and encourage them to socialise. Stepping out of the house and getting fresh air is equally important for good health. Engage them in daily activities and tasks and try doing things together.
Give them space - Even though they need care, make sure you give them the space they need when they ask for it.
Don't judge - Ageing changes a person not only physically but also mentally. Make sure you do not point it out if your parents are unable to do simple things that they would have easily done before.
Don't get frustrated - Your parents might need more attention, more care, and more time. But make sure you don't get frustrated. Their need for attention is genuine and not a mere gimmick.
Don't skip doctor appointments - A regular check-up is a must at this age. Skipping appointments might give rise to health complications in case of underlying health conditions.
Don't assume they are taking their medications - As your parents grow old, their memory weakens, and they tend to forget things. So make sure that they take their medicines on time.
Don't assume that depression is common - Depression is not common at any age. Make sure you take care of their mental health. It is necessary to dispel the stigma around mental health. Get help for them if you feel they are not feeling okay.
As they age, most parents pass on the responsibilities of the household to their children. They only wish to see their family happy together and to feel loved.
Ask them for help with simple tasks to make them feel included and needed. Activities like teaching them how to use phones or other devices can make them happy, take them out for family dinners, and get them their favourite things when you go out.
It might take a while for them to get along and learn new ways of life, have more patience around them.
Let them know that you are there for them when they feel low or sick. Emotional support or just the assurance that they are not alone goes a long way.
In a nutshell, they need you to express your love for them more frequently. It's vital for them to be healthy and happy.
We know that the path of caring for your parents is a challenging one. Never shy away from seeking the help you need.