As many adult children find out, there comes a point when an aging parent cannot safely live at home anymore. This is a very difficult situation for multiple reasons. The first is that the transition of the aging parents will require much time on behalf of the children or caregiver for the senior, either to arrange in home care or move the loved into assisted or senior living. Many times the caregiver will not know where to start or who to consult for guidance. Also, in today's busy world, there is never a good time to call a time out in life to deal with a family issue. In the end, it is best to deal with the situation immediately. Local resources, publications, medical professionals, the local area agency on aging or a care manager can help. The second is that the aging person may not recognize their condition or inability to live at home. Even if they do, it can be very emotional and difficult to transition them to a new, safer home.
Sometimes, the aging senior can live at home with the assistance of in-home care (see home care services offered). Each situation is different and everyone is encouraged to consult a professional regarding the appropriate care level for his or her circumstances. Below are general guidelines for remaining safely at home or moving.
For those who have moderate difficulty moving around the house, home modifications like ramps, handrails, grab bars, chair lifts and other modifications may help some seniors stay at home. Depending on the situation, some families have found that the expense of remodeling a bathroom or adding a stair lift is still cheaper than moving.
One of the most under recognized issues with seniors is depression and isolation. If the senior is generally healthy and mobile, then scheduled visits from friends or family or even structured programming at an adult day center can provide a senior with needed socialization. Sometimes seniors need a little push to go outside their comfort zone. It is recommended that families accompany mom or dad to the senior center, church or other community location to get them involved.
If an older adult is not driving, there are multiple options for getting around, ranging from public transport to private services like taxi and Uber. There are even community programs like iTN of the Lehigh Valley (itnlehighvalley.org), ShareCare and other nonprofit organizations that offer low costs transportation for seniors.
Depending on the medication condition of the individual, doctors are the best source to provide direction on a living environment. If a senior lives with a spouse or family member, sometimes medical conditions can be easily managed with equipment and visiting nurse services. Non-medical home care services can also supplement care and chores by dealing with the homemaking tasks to see that the individual remains comfortable in the other areas of their life.
Proper Use of Medication
Often overlooked by caregivers, the issue of proper medication management is common. Seniors can easily forget the time, dose, proper use and combinations of medicines. Depending on a situation a caregiver can assist with medications and nonmedical home care staff can provide reminders for seniors to take their medication. Nurses from home health agencies can dispense and give medications. Also, most pharmacies will package medication in "blister packs" that facilitate proper use of medication by seniors.
Meal Preparation / Nutrition
Proper nutrition is vital to good health for people of all ages, especially seniors. The most important thing to evaluate if a senior is not eating properly is to ask why. Lack of mobility, dementia, medication or other underlying issues could be the culprit. If there is no other serious health concern at fault or there is a lack of motivation, then the caregiver, friend, church family, neighbors or in-home care service could prepare meals periodically for the individual. Also, services such as Meals on Wheels are also valuable in getting nutrition and a friendly visitor to a senior.
When Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia are present, an individual cannot safely live alone. If a senior has a cognitive impairment but lives with a healthy spouse or other caregiver, the senior may be able to live safely at home, especially if care is supplemented by a non-medical in home care service (to help the senior and provide respite for the caregiver) or adult day care service. Other precautions can be put in place like fall protection and GPS tracking for wanderers. Generally, if an adult is diagnosed with dementia, medical advice should be sought and followed to make the best determination about the individual's living situation.
Most people prefer to maintain in the comfort of their own homes, and it can be done with the proper plan and support services. For a home safety checklist visit http://assets.aarp.org/external_sites/caregiving/checklists/checklist_homeSafety.html
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