Providing elderly support needs patience and empathy. Not all seniors appreciate someone else caring for them. Doing your best for them can be challenging. But to see them happier and safer will be a wonderful reward.
But first, here are a few statistics. As you will see you’re not alone caring for elderly parents and the number of seniors that will need elderly support is rising.
According to the Carers UK website, 1 in 8 adults between the ages of 50 and 65 are caring for an elderly relative.
Currently, in 9.3 million households the head of the house is a person over retirement age. By 2033, it’s expected to rise to 13 million; an increase of 40 per cent on figures for 2008.
Not all elderly people are fortunate enough to enjoy good health. 40% of people over the age of 60 have a disability or a health condition.
The amount of elderly support needed very much depends on the health of the adult. Some seniors need live-in care. Others can manage if you pop in to see them regularly to help with cleaning, laundry, and shopping.
Tidying up might be important. Seniors tend to accumulate piles of books and papers and leave wires trailing. You don’t want people falling over or tripping up. The last thing you’ll need is an emergency caused by someone falling while visiting your parent, or indeed your parents themselves.
How to be a Carer: – Health, Safety and Support
Caring for elderly parents isn’t only a matter of giving them their medications and food.
If you can, provide a holistic approach to your parents care. Nurture them physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
If you can, teach them about mindfulness and the benefits of meditation. You’re never too old to learn new skills. You can read more about mindfulness and meditation on our SureSafe blog. You’ll see how it can benefit your elderly parents and yourself as their carer.
How to be a carer: – Eating
At home, older people may not have a big appetite. It may be hard to get them to eat and drink. A person with Alzheimer’s might even forget that they haven’t eaten.
A good idea is to leave healthy snacks that they can open within reach. Place bottles of water or juice around too. Leaving food out might remind them they need to eat and drink. Leave food and drink within reach to reduce the risk of falls.
Cook up a colourful, nutritious meal that looks good on the plate. Serve an elderly person with a small portion so they don’t feel overwhelmed. Offer them more once they have finished.
If your parent can use the microwave or the oven, you can bulk cook meals and store them in the freezer. Then they can heat them up at mealtimes.
You can buy non-spill cups. There’s also extra light or easy-grip cutlery. These small things will make life easier for someone who doesn’t have a great deal of strength. Tap turners and bottle and jar openers will also ensure your parents are able to use the kitchen. Have a look for aids for the elderly at home, online. You’ll find plenty of inspiration.
If mum or dad can’t cook, they might be eligible for Meals on Wheels service through their local council. You have to pay but the prices are lower than private companies. Age UK also delivers meals at an affordable price. You’ll need to check if they provide this service in your area. And then, of course, there are many private companies you can contact online.
Caring for elderly parents – Hygiene
Not all elderly parents will need help with hygiene. But they might have mobility issues. Being unsteady on their feet might make it difficult for them to take a bath or have a shower. People falling in the bathroom is a risk because there might be water on the floor or they might trip on a floor mat.
If you need to help a parent them bathe, try and make them as comfortable as possible. Make sure they have a towel or a robe so they won’t feel embarrassed when they are getting in and out of the bath or shower.
On other days make sure they have enough flannels and soap to have a refreshing wash that way, you’re providing elderly support without too much fuss.
Bathroom aids like grab rails, boards and tap turners will help them if they don’t want your help in the bathroom. You can also replace a traditional bath with a sitting bath or shower.
If there’s no downstairs toilet and no stairlift, consider a commode. This type of chair will allow your parent to use the toilet without having to climb the stairs.
Make clothes easily accessible. Make sure your parents can reach clean clothes. Encourage them to change every day.
Elderly women, in particular, like to keep their hair in good condition. If your elderly mother can’t leave the house, arrange for a mobile hairdresser to come to their home.
Like exercise, mental stimulation improves stress and anxiety. Caring for elderly parents should also include plenty of mental stimulation. Playing games and doing crosswords or puzzles is a great way of keeping the brain active.
Ask your children to play board games like scrabble, draughts or snakes and ladders. Your kids will love it and its great stimulation for your parents.
A jigsaw or card game can keep them occupied if they are alone. You can play memory or counting games to keep their minds sharp.
Studies have shown that old photographs can trigger memories for people with dementia. Make up some albums for your parents. Use photographs and postcards of people and places they know.
How to be a carer: – Mobility
Caring for elderly parents also means encouraging them to move about or do some exercise.
Some seniors are more mobile than others. Whatever level of mobility your parents have, it’s important that they do some exercise. Of course, you’ll want to reduce the risk of people falling, so if you have a parent who is a bit wobbly on their feet make sure someone is with them when they go out. This is a good safety guide to follow and will reduce accidents.
Maybe you have a parent who is unable to stand for any length of time. If this is the case, encourage them to exercise from a sitting position. There’s a lot of exercises you can do while sitting down.
You don’t need any equipment. But a soft foam ball is useful for hand squeezes. Hand squeezes improve grip and may help to ease the pain of arthritis.
If your parent has some mobility, encourage them to take a daily walk. It doesn’t have to be far. You could drive them to a park or scenic spot and take a stroll somewhere peaceful where they can enjoy the views. If mum or dad doesn’t feel secure when walking, a rollator or walking frame should help.
If they aren’t mobile enough to walk far, maybe they could use a mobility scooter? A scooter will get them out of the house even for short periods.
Many elderly people suffer from stress and anxiety. This has a negative effect on their wellbeing. They could be in pain or maybe they worry about the future? It’s important to take the time to sit down and talk to your parents. If you can help them keep a positive outlook it will mean their mental health doesn’t suffer.
One of the best ways of giving your parents elderly support is to help them avoid low mood by making sure your parents can keep in touch with family and friends. If you can teach them how to use a smartphone or tablet, so they can make calls using video. Encourage grandchildren to visit, even if it’s for only for a short time.
If your parents are mobile, encourage them to attend any local clubs for seniors. Clubs help them get out of the house and is a great way of meeting old and new friends.
A parent living alone, who can’t leave home, might benefit from personal visits or a regular phone call. Speak to local charities for the elderly to see if they have a home visit programme. Age UK has a befriending service by telephone and face to face.
How to be a carer: Safety Guide
Caring for an elderly parent can be challenging. If they live in their own home, no doubt you will worry about them being alone. Have a look at this short safety guide which will help you think about the risks of someone falling and what you can do.
People falling over is a common cause of injury. Lack of mobility and failing eyesight make it difficult getting around when you’re older.
According to the NHS, falls are the largest cause of emergency hospital admissions for older people. About a third of elderly people aged 65 plus, and about half of people aged 80 plus, fall at least once a year. People falling are at risk of broken bones. Worse, falls can lead to other injuries and illness.
But there are precautions you take in the event of people falling. Home alarm systems can provide you with some peace of mind when you have elderly relatives. Alarm systems will notify you in the event of a fall so that you can get help quickly.
Pendant alarms like the SureSafe Go or watch alarms like FallSafe are now a popular choice. If mum or dad has a fall whilst in or outside the home, the alarm on their wrist sends a message. Your parent, or someone else, can then use the device built into the watch to speak to you, or the staff at an alarm centre. They work 24/7 so they are always there to help.
You can also help an elderly parent by making sure their home is tidy. Check there are no hazards on the floor like a trailing cable or piles of magazines or newspapers. As we said earlier, someone falling at home is more of a risk if the floors aren’t clear.
Stairs are also a risk. If they have the room downstairs talk to your parents about moving the bedroom to the ground floor. If this isn’t an option or your parents want to use their upstairs rooms then consider a stairlift.
Smart technology is also something to think about if your parent prefers to live alone at home. These devices can lower the risk of falls while doing everyday tasks.
Your parents can use a voice-controlled device. They can open and close the blinds, switch the lights on or off or control the heating. They can use it for fun things too. They can find out about the weather, what’s on TV or listen to their favourite music. And all without having to get up from the chair.
How to be carer: Aid for the elderly
Being a carer to an elderly relative can be exhausting. If you can, get in touch with your local authority. Or try elderly care charities an associations for seniors. There may be extra care at home so that you can share some of the responsibility.
Equipment and Adaptations
Do you want to adapt to your parent’s home or do they need special equipment? If they do, contact their social services department. They may be eligible for free help from the NHS. Social services will visit your parents for an assessment. If they are eligible you can have things stair rails or intercom systems installed. Each item must cost less than £1,000 to buy and install.
Caring for elderly parents: Help from other sources
If you have the budget, there are care associations like Careline Home Support. Home support can help with personal care, household tasks and light shopping.
You might just need a home help to do some cleaning and cooking or, you may prefer to have a live-in carer.
A live-in carer provides support at home during the day and at night. It means that your mum or dad won’t be alone and there will always be assistance on hand if it’s needed.
Other care companies can supply night carers. Night carers sleep overnight and help with medication and toilet trips.
You’ll be able to find home support companies in your area by looking online. Someone from the home support agency will visit your mum or dad at home to carry out an assessment of their needs. After that, they will present you with tailored options and costs for you to consider.
Sometimes you may be able to get help with the costs of home care for elderly support, through your local council. If your parent is eligible, they will arrange the homecare for you.