For most people, independence is of crucial importance – it ensures one’s dignity and self-respect and gives a sense of pride and achievement. It comes as no surprise, then, that older adults want to retain their independence for the longest time possible. 90% of U.S. seniors say that they wish to continue living in their own homes as they age – not only because they feel safer and more comfortable at home, but also because aging in place means they can keep their autonomy and independence.
Even though being completely independent isn’t realistic for most elderly people (the government estimates that 70% of people over the age of 65 need some type of senior care to assist with activities of daily living (ADLs)), many seniors can continue to live safely at home with just a little assistance. With today’s technological advancement and wide availability of home health care services, aging in place is becoming more and more of an achievable lifestyle choice.
If you’re wondering how to help your own elderly parents age independently at home while also ensuring their health, safety, and quality of life, you’ll find the tips below extremely useful.
Assess Your Aging Parents’ Care Needs
Aging at home has many great advantages – older adults live in a familiar place, surrounded by treasured possessions and precious memories, and remain in their own communities, close to neighbors whom they may have known for decades. What’s more, the cost of in-home care is often lower than the cost of care in a senior living community or skilled nursing facility.
To be able to safely age in place, however, your elderly parents probably need help. And to be able to help them, first you need to determine what they need help with – what tasks they have difficulty doing on their own, what challenges they face in their daily routine, what safety hazards their home presents, etc.:
- Do they feel lonely and isolated?
- Can they drive to grocery stores, appointments, and events?
- Do they need help with housework?
- Do they require assistance with the basic activities of daily living (ADLs)?
- Can they follow their medication schedules?
- What kind of health care do they need?
- Is their home safe for them? What potential hazards may arise?
Knowing the answers to these essential questions will help you evaluate your elderly parents’ needs and find a way to help them age independently at home.
Ensure Proper Health Care
Good health is key to a fulfilling and independent life – your parents need to maintain their health in order to extend their time living at home as much as possible. To help them stay healthy, you need to understand their medical condition and specific health care needs:
- Talk to your parents’ doctor and familiarize yourself with your loved ones’ physical and mental limitations. It’s important to know if they have conditions like poor balance, decreased muscle strength, and mental confusion which would affect their safety when staying in their home;
- Understand your parents’ medical needs, including their medication schedules and doctors’ appointments. Assist your mom and dad with checking vital signs and monitoring illnesses, using medical equipment, etc.;
- Stay in contact with your parents’ doctor, pharmacist, and nurse, so you can immediately learn of changes in your loved ones’ health or medical needs;
- Buy an automatic, lockable pill dispenser (so medicines are tamper-proof and only accessible when needed) and a device designed to provide medication reminders – forgetting dosages or mixing medicines can be fatal to the elderly;
- Provide your parents with an emergency call device – wearable personal emergency response systems allow users to summon help quickly and easily by pushing a button without having to get to a phone. This is particularly helpful in the event of a fall or if the person finds themselves unable to stand up and walk;
- Encourage your parents to be proactive in maintaining their health – to exercise, maintain a healthy diet, get plenty of rest, etc.
Good to know: Seniors recovering from a surgery or injury or living with a serious illness may need specialized home health care. It may involve skilled nursing care, rehabilitative care, palliative care, or other types of professional medical care and can only be provided by licensed medical personnel and certified nursing assistants.
Make Senior-Friendly Home Modifications
As people get older, they start having difficulty walking, climbing stairs, and navigating uneven or slippery surfaces. Moving around the house becomes a challenge and safety hazards arise. To be able to continue to live at home without putting their well-being at risk, older adults need to have their living environment adjusted to accommodate their changing needs. There are many different modifications that can be made to a home to make it safer and more comfortable for the elderly:
- Installing walk-in showers and tubs for easier and safer access;
- Installing shower seats or benches in the bathroom;
- Installing a raised toilet seat or frame;
- Installing grab bars in the bathroom, near the toilet, and along kitchen walls and hallways;
- Installing handrails along staircases;
- Installing stair lifts and chair lifts;
- Applying anti-slip coatings to the flooring and placing non-skid strips or decals in bathrooms, stairways, kitchens, and other areas where the floor often gets slippery;
- Securing or removing area rugs that can present a slipping hazard;
- Lowering shelves so seniors can easily access items;
- Adding more lighting in spaces like hallways, bathrooms, stairs, and entrances;
- Installing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house.
These simple and effective adjustments will help prevent falls, ensure better accessibility throughout the home, and reduce the risk of your elderly parents getting hurt or injured.
You may also want to look into home monitoring systems which provide you with a real-time overview of your parents’ home and have the ability to detect changes in your loved ones’ activity and send instant alerts in emergency situations. Some systems even allow you to remotely control lights, locks, and thermostats in your parents’ house.
Such modifications and upgrades around the house will make it possible for your senior loved ones to continue to live independently in their own place and will give you confidence and peace of mind that your aging parents are safe and comfortable in their home.
Provide Emotional Support
Even if your elderly parents have the ability to manage on their own, they still need companionship – meaningful emotional contact is essential for the elderly as it shows them they’re loved and valued and provides them with a sense of comfort. Something as simple as dinner with their grandchildren can greatly boost their morale and improve their general well-being.
Loneliness and isolation, on the other hand, can cause depression and result in severe health problems – lower brain function, chronic illnesses, etc.
So, if you have an elderly parent living alone, make sure to visit them on a regular basis and think of ways to help them stay connected with others. Make sure they have ways to get around town and also have ways to communicate with family and friends. Ask family members, friends, and neighbors to stop in and visit with your parent from time to time. Consider taking your elderly loved one to an adult day care center or a local senior center a few times a week so they can interact with other seniors and enjoy some social activities together. Just do your best to help nourish a sense of belonging and purpose.
Also, don’t forget about the things that bring your parents pleasure – whether it’s a reading gathering or a card game with friends, try to find ways to help them continue to pursue their hobbies and favorite pastimes.
If you’re living far away from your aging parents, be sure to set up regular phone or Skype conversations. Most seniors nowadays have cell phones and/or computers, so it’s even possible to have visual communications through video chats. It may be necessary to train your elderly loved ones to use the advanced technology, but the ability to view each other’s faces will be worth the effort.
Good to remember: Apart from emotional support, companionship provides an additional safety measure – when you have somebody seeing your parent every day, you know that they’re alright (if they’re not, you will be promptly informed).
Arrange Home Deliveries
Since driving is often a challenging activity for the elderly, basic needs like groceries and medicine refills need to be delivered to the door. Home delivery services provide a simple and effective way to ensure that household goods never run out and your aging parents have everything they need at home. Groceries, hygiene items and toiletries, cleaning supplies, and many other goods can be delivered right to the doorstep in just a day or two.
If your senior loved ones have internet access, you can show them how to do their shopping online, so they feel more independent and in control of their own lives. Most online grocery stores allow customers to set up shopping lists for easy reordering, so once you show your parents how to order things online and bookmark the respective pages, they should be able to cope by themselves.
If your loved one is not comfortable using the computer, you can ask them what they need, place the order, and request that it be delivered to their door. You can even pay the stores directly, so no problems arise.
If needed, you can also arrange meal deliveries, laundry collection and delivery, etc. Most seniors will be comfortable with the idea of hiring a cleaner to come in for housekeeping once or twice a week, as well. There are many options available to help the elderly age independently at home – just pick the ones that suit your aging parents’ particular needs.
Consider Home Care
Using professional senior home care services may be the best option for your aging parent, especially if you live far away. If you cannot be always there for your senior loved ones to offer companionship and assist them with self-care and housekeeping, hiring in-home care provides an effective way to help your parents continue living in their home and retain their independence.
There are many types of home care you can choose from, depending on the particular needs of your senior loved one:
- Personal care – providing medication reminders and assistance with eating, bathing, grooming, dressing, and other activities of daily living (ADLs);
- Housekeeping services – keeping the home clean and organized, doing the laundry, shopping, preparing meals, etc.;
- Transportation services – taking care of errands, taking the elderly to doctor’s appointments, etc.;
- Companion care – accompanying seniors to social events, playing games with them, engaging them in conversations, providing friendship and emotional support, etc.;
- Non-medical home health care – providing dementia care, Alzheimer’s care, disability care, etc.
One of the greatest advantages of home care is that it can be tailored to meet your parent’s individual needs. You can choose what services to use and how often to use them – a caregiver can come in just once a week, spend a few hours a day with your elderly loved one, or provide 24-hour care.
At Assisting Hands Home Care, we understand that every situation is different and every person has different care needs. That’s why we create personalized care plans for each of our customers based on their medical history, current condition, and individual needs and preferences. Our highly trained, courteous caregivers provide not only excellent home care, but also amiable companionship as they establish a personal connection with the elderly.
If you have an elderly parent aging in place in Plainfield, IL and the communities of Will and Kendall counties, Assisting Hands Home Care is here to help. Contact us at (815) 201-5445 for more information about our quality elder care services – home health care, memory care, companion care, assistance with ADLs such as meal preparation, eating, bathing, light housekeeping, grocery shopping, and transportation, and other types of senior home care that will allow your aging parents to stay in their home and maintain an independent lifestyle for as long as possible.