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Witnessing your parents grow old, lose their strength, and eventually even their independence is never easy.
Still, they seem to cling so hard to keep it, even when you’re unsure whether they are still capable of living on their own. Studies show that 90% of older adults prefer to live in their own homes, and unless they are completely incapable of deciding, we can only respect such a choice.
But there are ways we can help them out in this new stage in their life and make it less risky for them. Read on to find out what you can do and how you can make this new situation easier for both sides.
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We’ve all heard the gloomy statistics: one in four people older than 65 falls during a year, while every 19 minutes an elderly person dies as a result of such a fall. With age, mobility tends to decline, and the last thing your parents need is an injury.
To help your parents keep their independence as long as their health permits, one of the first things to consider is whether their home needs some adjustments. Even if your parents don’t have any critical issues with their mobility at the moment, talk to them about taking preventative measures.
Here are a few suggestions about adjustments you can consider:
- Eliminate doorsteps.
- Modify doors and hallways to make them wider.
- Try to minimize the use of stairs by having a stairclimber or creating a single-level living space.
- Ensure the stairs are clean and protected with non-skid treads.
- Make sure the floor and all the pathways are clear to remove tripping hazards.
- Add necessary changes to the bathroom: modify the bathtub into a step-in shower, add non-slip surfaces inside and outside the shower, grab bars, a shower chair, a raised toilet, etc.
- Add extra lights and make the current ones easier to access.
If one of your parents has dementia or some other cognitive impairment, they’ll need more support to be safe at their home, so you will have to take some extra measures.
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Most elderly persons take their medications daily, and it’s important to be sure that they are following the doctor’s directions. Especially when there are some clear signs of cognitive decline, impaired vision, or decreased mobility, which could result in their inability to follow their routine completely on their own.
If you notice any of those, make arrangements with your parents to go to their next doctor’s appointment together, and get more information on their health needs.
Also, try to find a solution that your parents will find suitable, whether that includes using pillboxes that they will keep right next to their bed or a phone call to remind them to take their meds.
Sometimes your parent is going to need even more support, including the presence of a caregiver – their spouse, another relative, or a professional, so it’s important to have such care arranged on time.
You also need to be prepared for the cases of emergency, should your parents need to be taken care of as soon as possible. Talk to them about installing a medical alert system for seniors, so that you can rest assured that they will get help and assistance immediately.
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A healthy diet is essential for the physical and emotional wellbeing of your parents.
If they live alone, your parents will eventually need some support with their grocery shopping and meal preparation to be able to maintain a proper diet.
There is also a number of ways you can accommodate the kitchen to better fit the needs of older adults, and make everything, including cookware, more accessible.
Meals on Wheels can also be a solution, but if they still don’t feel like choosing such an option, fortunately, you can have food delivered to their doorstep. Either way, you’ll save them, or yourself, the trouble of driving and waiting in long lines.
Living in their own home can make your parents happy only if their social and emotional needs are met too. Social isolation and loneliness are not uncommon in people of a certain age; as a matter of fact, more than a third of older adults in America admit to being lonely.
These factors pose a great risk to their quality of life and may result in many health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, depression, cognitive decline, etc.
These are the issues you also need to address when caring for your elderly parent, and they’re just as important as caring for their physical wellbeing.
Talk to your parents about how they spend their days. If you find that they are mostly homebound and that they lack interaction with others or meaningful activities, look for ways to provide them with support in being socially active.
At the end of the day, the thing that matters the most to our aging parents, aside from maintaining their dignity and independence, is knowing that they’re loved and cared for. Sometimes a simple phone call or a message to ask them how they are and whether they need anything will be enough to brighten their day. Make sure to do that every day, no matter how busy you are.