As your parents age you may notice they don’t remember things as well as they used to and it is worrisome to think of them living alone. If your parents are suffering memory lapses it is quite possible they could turn on a stove, for example, and forget to turn it off. Trips and falls in the home are also a concern as your parents get older. There are many ways to deal with health issues and to make your parent’s home more senior-friendly; from age-proofing by removing trip and fall hazards to make the home more senior-friendly, to equipping it with a medical alert system, here are some ways you can work
with your parents to help them stay active, healthy and in good spirits:
- Develop new, better habits: As your parents age it is easy for them to fall into bad habits such as not brushing their teeth as often as they used to, not taking their vitamins or even neglecting personal hygiene. Make certain your parents are keeping up with their hygiene and that they’re not relying on take out foods or other junk food because they don’t want to be bothered with cooking. If cooking is becoming problematic for them, look into services in your community such as Meals-0n-Wheels. Remind them that their health is important.
- Lifelong learning: Urge your parents to get involved in community learning activities. Many communities offer free or low cost classes at senior centers or community colleges. Stimulating the mind will help improve memory and boost self-confidence.
- Laughter truly is the best medicine: Whether it’s watching funny movies, seeing a play or just visiting with friends or family, laughter will help improve memory, lower stress and blood pressure and can even protect against infection.
- Regular exercise is crucial: Even if your parents are housebound because of the weather, they can still get up and move around the house. A walk up and down the hallways is better than sitting on the couch all the time. Ask their doctor about exercise equipment they could purchase to help them stretch and get some cardiovascular activities while they’re at home.
- Friendship matters: Whether your parents are members of a church or attend classes or even go out for coffee on a regular basis, they should try to keep in touch with friends or even their siblings. Studies show that having six hours a day of social interaction helps people retain their mental acuity.
In addition to the above tips, your parents should stick to regular sleep routines even though they may need less sleep as they age, getting a full night’s sleep is crucial to good health. Keep in mind that your parents may feel more confident with moving around the house and living alone if they are equipped with a medical alert system. These devices offer both you and them peace of mind that if they suffer a fall or a medical emergency that medical help will be dispatched.
Personal hygiene is an important aspect of a care plan. When the care recipient is unable to bathe on their own, this can become one of the most dreaded aspects of caregiving.
While bathing can be difficult, it is necessary to maintain clean skin and it also provides an opportunity for the caregiver to inspect the senior’s skin while helping to control body odor.
Here are some practical tips on making personal hygiene less stressful.
- Create Time. Use a calendar and let the care recipient participate in setting the time and date. If the recipient is a reluctant participant, use incentives to get him or her to bathe. Perhaps there is a favorite food, Tv show, book or visit from friends and relatives that could be used as a reminder/trigger. Generally, bathing once or twice a week is sufficient for most seniors.
- Create Open Communication. As you’re getting the bath water or shower ready, speak with the care recipient, telling them what you are going to do before proceeding. This eliminates the fear of the unknown and helps the senior mentally prepare for the next step.
- Create Atmosphere. If your care recipient likes a spa like feeling, play relaxing music, light candles and use scented soaps and lotions. Perhaps a trip to the 50’s is more to his or her liking so play their favorite songs. Ask your care recipient for ideas on making the experience more enjoyable.
- Create a proper temperature. If you’re care recipient is always cold, warm up the bathroom or bathtub. Turn up the heat and make sure the floors are warm. If your care recipient is one who doesn’t tolerate heat and moisture, be sure to use the ventilation fan.
- Create a safe environment. Bath rugs are opportunities for a fall so remove them or pull them back if needed. Use bath chairs, non-slip mats and safety bars. If these things are not readily available, discuss the need for them with the care recipient and family. If the recipient is able to bathe and live alone, a medical alert system is a wise investment in the event of a fall.
- Create ease. A shower head can easily be replaced with a hand-held shower. This allows the care recipient to be more involved in their bathing experience.
- Create a sense of modesty. Allow your loved one to do as much of the bathing process as possible while considering safety. Undressing and being uncovered is a stressor for many. As safety allows, help the recipient maintain their sense of privacy by keeping doors closed, shower curtains pulled and by allowing them to bathe their private areas if possible. Keep a hand towel or gown available to cover parts of the body that aren’t being bathed.
- Create a sense of compromise. If your care recipient can’t bathe in a tub or shower, use no-rinse washcloths and dry shampoo between weekly bed baths. Uncovering just the part being washed helps maintain privacy.
Tasks and chores that a person can no longer do on their own can create feelings of anger, frustration, fear and sadness. If your care recipient is reluctant or hesitant, empathize and try to have a light-hearted discussion about how you can make this a less daunting experience. Personal hygiene is often the first thing seniors are willing to ignore so remind them of the importance while always considering how this affects them emotionally and physically. Together you can implement a plan that works for everyone.