A report published by the US Census Bureau estimates that the American elderly population (aged 65 years and above) will have risen to above 80 million by the year 2030 representing a significant 15% of the population. This age comes with its fair share of challenges like cognitive disability, physical impairment, poor health, and some others which 69% of this population suffers from. In addition, 32% of those aged 85 years and above suffer from moderate to severe memory impairment, specialized medical attention notwithstanding. Going by the government’s report that the elderly population accounted for 38% of emergency medical responses and 90% of all nursing home use, it is clear that healthcare resources are headed to a stretch. Good news is that at least 35% of seniors are under elderly care in assisted facilities. However, nursing homes are also bearing the brunt of the turbulent economic situation.
Most nursing homes have had to adjust accordingly to stay afloat. This means that seniors who end up here have to make do with a lean workforce, poor meals, and in some cases untrained staff. These factors coupled with reported cases of neglect and abuse have had more people keeping the elderly in their own homes. Yet questions like “can I take care of the elderly in my own home?” still top their list of concerns.
This article will not only answer this question, it will also highlight the advantages of home care for the elderly and offer invaluable tips on the same.
Tips for Caring for the Elderly at Home
- Earn their trust. The frequently sensitive seniors will certainly open up to you but you’ve got to work hard at earning their trust. Be genuinely interested in their welfare. Care to find out how their day was and give them a phone call whenever you are away. Occasionally, surprise them with a gift card to show them that they are thought of.
- Communicate gently but clearly. It’s not uncommon for an elderly patient to suffer from hearing impairment. Be patient with them making sure you understand and respond to all their concerns. Knowing what’s good for them is not an opportunity to rob them of their voice and choice.
- Be someone they can count on. Elderly people tend to get irritated at the slightest thought of being taken for granted. Keep time and anticipate their needs when around them.
- Leave no room for arguments. Misunderstandings happen but your key role as a caregiver is to make them feel valued. You can try diffusing the situation by changing the topic then correct them gently with love after they have calmed down.
- Respect their privacy and confidentiality. A caregiver should maintain the trust of the patient and his/her family. Any information shared in confidence remains so especially if it is bound to stir up animosity.
- Ensure that their rights are not infringed. The fear of being thought of as “difficult” may lead a senior to succumb to The Stockholm Syndrome hence failing to report mistreatment or abuse. Sadly, such situations are common, especially where children or close relatives are the caregivers.
- Do not compromise the dignity of the elderly in the event that they are unable to bathe or clean after themselves. The fact that they cannot accomplish tasks that were once simple is enough humiliation. Don’t make it worse.
- Focus on Special care. One of the main reasons people prefer home care for their aging parents is because assistive facilities don’t accord them the specialized attention they direly need. Uniform care does not appeal to everyone. It is always a good idea to go the extra mile to find out the little things that make them happy and capitalize on these.
Taking Care of the Elderly in your Home
Caring for the elderly at home is akin to having a toddler in the house. Besides being required to monitor their movements, the home needs to be modified to ease their movement and make them more comfortable. The following guidelines will help you to take care of your elderly parents in your home.
- Carry their souvenirs along. Nostalgia is such a powerful emotion making a senior to somewhat always be attached to their previous surrounding. Rule of thumb is to help them settle fast by creating a replication of their previous environment. Include their favorite books, furniture or something they once loved. Such souvenirs which help them remember the special moments they once had with joy.
- Modify the home to accommodate them. The elderly are known to be weak and frail. Consider including assistive devices like grab bars and a shower chair in the bathroom and rails on the stairways for added support. Eliminate obstacles that may hamper movement or cause falls. A fall detector will also be a handy device at this point.
- To ward off the feeling of loneliness and reduce anxiety, try to create a seamless continuation from their previous life. Occasionally, allow them to call friends or invite them over or participate in their favorite sport. Other times, allow them to join a social circle for the elderly in the area.
- Dementia is one of the challenges faced by the elderly. Help with bill payment and with safeguarding their legal documents. Whenever possible, get details and follow up on their health care plan and insurance.
- Be their financial advisor. Seniors are always the target and have many times fallen for scams or cyber-crime. Shield them by guiding their every move to avoid fraud or abuse.
Benefits of Elderly Living at Home
Home care comes with some of the most profound benefits for the elderly. They experience love and support firsthand especially where family rather than a caregiver is involved. Some advantages of home care for the elderly include:
- Home care leaves seniors to personalized one-on-one support. This guarantees them undivided attention which they often crave for. More importantly, caring for elderly parents at home benefits them by freeing them from the strict routines common in nursing homes.
- Not being around the family or the community they are used to is known to cause utter loneliness to the seniors. Companionship during this phase is something they wouldn’t trade for anything. By having family members around, these people can cope and respond better to the challenges associated with old age.
- Home care is an effective remedy for dementia. If you want your old folks to have quality sleep through the night, let them be home around their loved ones. When someone has stayed in one place for decades, their lives will be built around it. In essence, this is their “natural habitat”. Moving them elsewhere makes them homesick, accelerates memory loss and causes confusion.
- As a family, you will avoid the emotional burden of having to wonder whether your parents’ dignity is being upheld and whether they are safe and happy. Having them home near you makes you live guilt-free, without any sense of loss. Ultimately, family bonds become stronger.
- Home care will not put a strain on your finances. The fact that you can save several bucks a month, is in itself, an incentive for keeping the elderly at home.
- Home care is giving them what they want. The fear of the unknown makes elderly people reluctant to leave the comfort of their surroundings. Leaving is usually their last resort.
- Studies indicate that over 80% of seniors prefer to age in their own homes. The elderly would rather die than lose their independence. Home care allows them independence and gives them the confidence that they are in control however small this independence might be.
Aging and Family Relationships
In times of distress and sickness, only a strong bond can keep a family together. As mentioned earlier, 80% of all seniors would rather age at home. Family support for elderly will be vital in helping seniors stay in their homes. If a family values a strong bond, it will be easy to come up with a flexible schedule that can accommodate all members and still enable everyone to play a role in caring for their parents. During old age, seniors care more for your presence and love than for other pleasantries that life has to offer. Aging presents the ultimate litmus test for family relationships.
If family members avoid the responsibility of caring for their aging parents, the strain becomes too much for one individual to bear. In a nutshell, aging presents a challenge to both the family and the individual. Studies have proved that the elderly fear to depend on other people more than they fear death. For this reason, family members have the noble responsibility of easing the burden of guilt or self-pity in their seniors, which tends to manifest in their actions or words. They are not supposed to feel that they are slowing down others lives or being a burden to them.
Family plays a critical role in this transitional phase because they constitute his environment. Among the fears of the elderly is being alienated, having a serious illness, disability and weakening of neighborhood connections. No one wants to be forgotten. This can be further exacerbated by children who might be working in faraway states or countries or the death of a spouse, which can be the biggest blow. Thus, an environment like this will be counterproductive to any efforts being made to slow down the effects of aging.
Notably, where you’ll witness close family ties, you will also note that financial obligations are met, medication needs are addressed and respect accorded without a hassle. This is more important to the elderly than to their caregivers as it gives them a sense of belonging. Such high emotional value cannot be quantified and has been proved to slow down memory loss, help them recover faster from illnesses and remain cheerful and upbeat.
Why Should We Take Care of the Elderly?
The importance of providing home care for the elderly in their own homes cannot be overstated. Life has two critical phases; the infant phase and old age. The latter is never easy given that it gradually develops against one’s wishes and nothing much can be done about it. Chronic health issues and disability are common during this phase. Our parents may need help with almost everything if they are to keep going. Our presence ensures that they have taken their medication as prescribed, are taking regular baths, and have not stuck to a can of soup for supper. Taking care of our parents is not a debt to be repaid and certainly not a debate but a duty that shouldn’t be delegated. Here are some valid reasons why we need to take care of the elderly.
- They love us unconditionally. Our parents are literally the only people who will always be there for us our entire lives. We don’t have to act a certain way to earn their love. We are guaranteed a special place in their hearts. Even if we turn out to be criminals, their love will always be.
- You are where you are today because of the sacrifices your parents made for you. They never mind putting their lives on the line to safeguard your interests. This includes giving up the pleasantries of life to give you a decent education, working in risky environments, etc.
- Some people neglect this responsibility because they have bitter memories of the past. Put your bitterness aside and seize the opportunity to set an example for future generations.
- For their blessings. A parent’s blessing is not a child folklore story. It has been there since the biblical ages, ancient civilization to the present generation. The greatest legacy a parent can leave behind is blessed children. Blessed children excel in all their endeavors.
- We learned from them. Our parents were our first teachers. Our core principles, morals, and values in life are hinged on the lessons we learned from them when we were just children. They taught us to distinguish right from wrong. It’s only from our parents that we can learn both practical and theoretical knowledge.
- These people gave us life. Our mothers carried us in their wombs for nine months. Pregnancy not only warrants a change/observation of diet, it demands a specific lifestyle if the baby is to be born strong and healthy. We definitely owe it to them for this reason if not any other.
- Regardless of what they did or didn’t do, they are still your parents. Nothing you do will ever change that fact.
- They don’t want it, they need it. They’re beyond that point where your help is optional. Please step in and help them enjoy the last days of their lives.
- This is what any noble human being ought to do. Virtue is its own reward.
Life is like a bell curve. The beginning resembles the end. There’s no greater duty to parents or to self than to be there for them during old age. Our parents gave us life and we’re probably where we are today because of them. Giving a parent up to a nursing home is as heart-wrenching as handing over your beloved child for adoption.
You have the option of taking caring of elderly parents in your home for the benefit of both of you. Even if your childhood was filled with bitter experiences, this still remains the only right thing to do. Use it as an opportunity to have a beautiful ending.