Tips for Family Caregivers
The Top 10 Tips for Family Caregivers (courtesy Aging in Place Essential Toolkit)
- Create a Secure Home. Have a safety assessment done. Hire a carpenter to install rails; ramps or other items that help your loved one maintain their balance. Remove anything on the floor they can get caught up on or trip on.
- Install Monitoring Systems. There are many home monitoring options out there that are easy to install and use. These can be lifesavers when you can’t be at your loved one’s home right away and want to know everything is OK.
- Support Mobility. Prevent falls. It’s proven that practice with balance can help prevent falls as we age. Taking your loved one to a falls prevention class can do wonders for their balance and prevent life-threatening injury.
- Give the Right Medications at the Right Times. If your loved one is forgetful, you’ll need to pre-load their medications and either call or visit them to make sure they take them. If you can’t be around to give your loved one their medications, and you know they will not remember consistently, you will need to find licensed professional support to come to the home and make sure they are taking them as prescribed. Depending on the need, home health agencies can arrange for medication visits by licensed nurses or certified nursing assistants.
- Support Overall Fitness and Well-Being. Walking or gentle exercise will do more than help prevent falls. Activity is good for our muscles, hearts and minds. Encourage your loved one to move as much as they are able. Find seniors exercise classes they can easily get to, or drive them there.
- Monitor (and Support) Hygiene. Is your loved one’s body odor becoming more pronounced when you visit? Are they keeping their home as clean as they once did? If you notice significant changes, it’s time to gently introduce support. It may start with doing the laundry or housework, or hiring an aide to help with these chores.
- Check Vision Regularly. Loss of vision can lead to accidents. Not being able to see correctly can also lead to feelings of anxiety or depression. Make sure your loved one sees an eye doctor yearly, and gets re-fitted for glasses every time their prescription changes. Make sure they get checked for glaucoma and macular degeneration every year. If they already have these eye diseases, it’s critical that they take prescribed medications and get injections on a regular basis to prevent their vision from deteriorating further.
- Assess Driving Skills / Coordinate Transportation. If your elderly loved one is still behind the wheel, make sure he or she is still a capable driver. Taking away a parent’s keys is tough, but necessary if they’re no longer able to safely navigate the road. If they no longer drive, help them find a senior transportation program or bus that serves the places they want to go. Get to know the routes and the drivers. Ask your loved one to tell you when they are going out, and where. Ask them to call you when they get home.
- Support Medical Needs. Get to know your elderly parents’ or relatives’ primary care physicians. Accompany them on visits and talk to their doctors. If your elderly loved one is not capable of understanding their doctors or making decisions, engage an attorney and get your loved one’s written approval to become their health care proxy. This will enable you to make medical decisions on your loved ones’ behalf, choose or change doctors, or select health care facilities.
- Keep Communication Open. Whether you have a professional home caregiver helping out or whether you’re going it alone, care giving for an elderly loved one is stressful. You may be dealing with siblings who disagree with how things should be done. One sibling may feel like they’re doing all the work and aren’t getting support. Others may not want to bring in professional home care. These are very common scenarios, and there is no one right answer. In my experience, keeping the lines of communication open, no matter how stressed we are or how “taboo” the subject may seem, is in the end the best course of action.
From the Aging in Place Essential Toolkit