How You Can Support Your Elderly Loved Ones To Retain Their Independence

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This is a collaborative post.

Many of us have elderly loved ones who might be beginning to struggle on their own but don’t want to lose their independence. When supporting them, it’s important that we continue to respect their wishes and encourage active independence as much as possible. However, it’s also important to try and find ways you can help support aspects such as their mental health, mobility, and social interaction for their well-being and happiness. In this article, we’ll discover some of the best ways to help ensure your elderly loved ones get the support and assistance they need to live happy and fulfilling lives.

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Support With Their Mobility

Supporting an elderly loved one with mobility challenges involves understanding their needs, offering emotional support, and helping them adapt to devices like powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Firstly, it’s crucial to have an open and respectful conversation with your loved one about their mobility issues. Acknowledge their feelings and concerns, and involve them in decision-making processes. This approach ensures they feel valued and in control of their own life.

When choosing a mobility device, consider the individual’s specific needs, the layout of their living space, and the types of activities they enjoy. Powered wheelchairs are suitable for those with limited upper body strength or dexterity, offering easy manoeuvrability and comfort for indoor use. Using mobility scooters, on the other hand, is ideal for those who can sit upright unassisted and have good hand strength and control. They are great for outdoor activities and can cover longer distances.

After selecting the right device, ensure your loved one receives proper training on its use. This might include learning how to navigate different terrains, understanding the battery life, and practising safety measures. Regular maintenance of the device is also essential for its longevity and safety.

Encourage them to gradually build confidence in using their new mobility aid. Start with short trips in familiar environments and gradually increase the duration and complexity of outings. Always be patient and offer assistance when needed, but allow them independence where possible.

Help With Household Tasks

Supporting an elderly loved one with household tasks requires balancing assistance and respecting their independence. Start by assessing their ability to handle various chores. Simple tasks like dusting or organising can provide a sense of accomplishment, while more physically demanding tasks, such as vacuuming or food shopping, might require your help.

To make household chores easier, consider implementing organisational tools and modifications. Installing grab bars in bathrooms, using non-slip mats, and rearranging commonly used items to be more accessible can significantly reduce the risk of falls and strain.

For tasks beyond their capability, establish a routine where you or another family member can assist. This could involve weekly visits for cleaning, laundry, or meal preparation. Incorporating their preferences and routines in these activities helps maintain a sense of normalcy and control over their environment.

As their needs increase, it may be time to consider home care support. Signs that professional help is needed include a noticeable decline in hygiene, cleanliness, or nutrition, difficulty managing medications, or increased forgetfulness. Home care professionals can provide tailored services ranging from basic housekeeping to medical care, depending on the level of need.

When deciding on home care, involve your loved one in the conversation. This ensures they understand the need for additional help and allows them to voice their preferences and concerns. Choosing the right time for home care is crucial; too early, and it may feel intrusive; too late, and their health and safety could be compromised. Regular assessments of their abilities and needs can help in making this decision at the appropriate time.

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Adapting Their Home

Adapting a home for an elderly loved one involves modifying to enhance safety, accessibility, and comfort, catering to their changing mobility and health needs. The goal is to create an environment that allows them to live independently and safely.

Start with basic safety measures: remove tripping hazards such as loose rugs, ensure adequate lighting, especially in hallways and staircases, and install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. For bathrooms, consider installing grab bars in the shower and near the toilet, using a shower chair, and applying non-slip mats to prevent falls. Raised toilet seats can also aid those with limited mobility.

In the kitchen, rearrange items to make them easily accessible, avoiding the need to reach high shelves or bend low. Lever-style faucet handles, and easy-to-use appliances can reduce strain and improve usability.

Staircases present a significant challenge. If possible, reorganise the living space to minimise the need to use stairs. If stairs are unavoidable, installing handrails on both sides or considering a stairlift can be beneficial.

For those with more severe mobility issues, wider doorways for wheelchair access and ramps to replace steps at entrances are essential modifications. Flooring should be smooth and even, but not slippery, to facilitate easier movement.

It’s also important to consider technological aids, such as emergency response systems, which can provide peace of mind for the elderly and their caregivers.

In all these modifications, involve your loved one in decision-making to respect their preferences and needs. Professional advice from an occupational therapist or a specialist in ageing-in-place adaptations can be invaluable in ensuring that modifications effectively meet their specific needs.

Dementia Support

For those living with dementia, more full-time care and support can be needed. The level of care will depend on the stage of dementia your loved one is at. It might be worth considering home care services or full-time dementia care. Even if your loved one no longer has the capacity to make their own decisions, it’s still extremely important to involve them as much as possible with decisions that are made about their life. Respect and dignity should always be maintained, and their wishes fulfilled where possible. Researching dementia and getting to know more about the condition and the different forms it can occur in will help you to support your loved one and make their life better.

Mental Health Support

One of the most significant but often overlooked aspects of old age is a decline in mental health. This can be due to a variety of factors. For example, less social interaction, reduced mobility, or poor health. It can also be due to changes in their life, such as retirement from a fulfilling career or children growing up and flying the nest. Make sure you check in with your elderly loved ones and ask them how they’re feeling. Make sure you encourage open communication and let them know you’re there if they need you. If you think they might be struggling, it could be worth considering getting them professional mental health support from a counsellor or psychiatrist.  One of the most important ways to help support good mental health in the elderly is to ensure they have plenty of social interaction. As well as paying them regular visits yourself, try to help them maintain other important social connections with family, friends, or local groups.

Our autonomy and independence are important for all of us, and that doesn’t change as we age. Helping our elderly loved ones retain a sense of independence and respecting their wishes is one of the best ways to ensure their happiness and wellbeing.

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