Being able to still have one’s parents around during their golden years is a blessing in and of itself. Our folks work hard all their lives to provide for us, their families, so one could only hope for long and happy years for them beyond their retirement.
While each one of them may choose different living arrangements for themselves when they reach an advanced age, it is important to make sure that they are safe, comfortable, and healthy, no matter if they end up living alone, with the rest of your family, in a nursing home facility, or in an assisted living community.
If they happen to live at home with you, however, you need to be able to create an environment that is conducive to a good quality of life.
This short guide will provide valuable tips that will help ensure the safety and well-being of your elderly parents or loved ones.
1. Be Cognizant of the Kind of Care You Need to Provide
Before you can really begin to see the big picture of what caring for your elderly parent entails, you first need to understand the minutiae of it. Be objective with identifying the kind of care that they need and be realistic about what you can really do as their caregiver or guardian.
Is your parent quite healthy for their age? Are they mobile, and can do things on their own? If not, do they have a medical condition that affects their quality of life and entails round-the-clock care?
If you have a day job and you also have to provide for your children, you might have to hire another person who can serve as their primary caregiver.
Be sure that the individual you are hiring is trained, experienced, and adheres to the highest standards of hygiene and health safety.
You might ask why use an antimicrobial mask when a caregiver is interacting with your parents, for example, but in this age of a pandemic, you really can’t be too careful – especially if the carer does not live in your household.
Finally, if your parents are able to make decisions, it’s important to make sure to involve them in the process of planning for their care.
2. Protect Them from Slip and Fall Injuries
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four adults aged 65 and older suffer from slip and fall injuries each year, causing more than 28,000 deaths, upwards of 800,000 hospitalizations, and 3 million emergency department visits annually.
It’s important to redesign your home to lessen the likelihood of slips and falls. First, make sure to clear floors and hallways of any objects they can trip over.
Secondly, remove small throw rugs and tack down bigger ones with double-sided tapes or tack strips.
Finally, make sure to use non-slip mats inside bathrooms while also installing grab bars, especially around the toilet and bathtub areas.
It’s also a good idea to let your elderly parents wear non-slip slippers and to make sure they’re not walking around in socks.
3. Make Sure They Are Taking Their Medicines Properly
Is your elderly parent solely responsible for managing the medicines they take on a daily basis? Are they visiting multiple doctors that individually prescribe medicines to them? If so, you might want to keep a closer look at how they take all those drugs.
According to the CDC, seniors aged 65 and above visit emergency departments almost 450,000 times every year due to adverse drug events, which happen when elderly individuals are harmed by medicines.
Adverse drug events can involve various scenarios, including unintentional overdoses, dosing errors, drug overlaps and duplicate medications, missed medications, and drug interactions.
To prevent adverse drug events, make sure that you also completely understand your elderly loved one’s medication regimen. Make a list of the drugs they are currently taking, and tag along the next time they consult their doctors or buy medicines at the pharmacy.
You have to make certain that there are no overlaps in the medicines they are taking and also to ensure that they are buying the right medicines in the first place.
5. Encourage Them to Exercise
Because seniors are less physically active than younger people on average, many of them fall into the trap of neglecting their physical fitness.
However, regular exercise, as you may already know, is actually critical to healthy aging.
Sitting less and moving more can prevent the development of many diseases, in addition to helping improve mental health and cognition, reducing the likelihood of slip and fall accidents, and strengthening social connections if their activities involve interaction with other people.
According to the CDC, if an elderly individual has no chronic conditions that prevent them from getting exercise, they should be as physically active as their situation allows.
An example would be getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking) every day.
Another way is by combining a vigorous-intensity aerobic activity with muscle-strengthening activities weekly.
For example, the senior could jog or run 75 minutes once a week and exercise major muscle groups like the chest, abdomen, hips, back, legs, shoulders, and arms twice a week.
6. Keep Their Minds Active
On top of their physical health, you should also help your elderly parents maintain their cognitive health. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) describes cognitive health as “the ability to clearly think, learn, and remember.
It is already known that regular physical activity can help in this area of aging, with studies showing how exercise helps maintain old neural connections in the brain while also increasing the size of brain components that are critical to learning, memory retention, and spatial awareness.
Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is also important in preventing cognitive decline later in life. Empirical studies have shown that maintaining a systolic blood pressure below a reading of 140 can minimize mild cognitive impairment, which can influence the development of dementia.
On top of these, the NIH also recommends encouraging seniors to keep their minds active and to participate in social pursuits. Engaging in cognitively demanding hobbies such as reading, quilting, playing games, and doing photography can help improve memory retention.
On the other hand, engaging in personally meaningful activities with other people can improve seniors’ quality of life by boosting their mood, making them feel happier, and giving them a sense of purpose.
Growing older doesn’t have to mean becoming unhealthier and losing one’s joie de vivre. As a child to an elderly parent, there are many things you can do to help them cope with aging while keeping them healthy and still excited for what the future is yet to bring.