Your senior loved one has decided that it is important they stay in the community instead of living in an institution as they age.
Aging in place is the way most seniors (and future seniors) say they want to live.
Now you, as your senior’s family caregiver, are being called upon to provide care and find help for them for a multitude of tasks.
What types of things will your senior need?
What things are you able to do or provide to meet their needs so they can remain independent?
Caregivers of All Kinds
What types of interventions, and therefore helpers, will your senior loved one require to remain at home — safely, comfortably and independently?
There are many types of helpers your senior may need, depending on their functional status, now and how they might change in their future. Remember that aging in place requires planning, not just for the here and now but for the future as well.
While family caregivers can and do provide much needed care even above what they are trained to do, they are not the only care providers that should be used.
There may be a long list of needs with which someone can help along the way and every possible resource should be used.
Caregivers are often overburdened and get burned out when they are the only ones on whom their senior loved ones are able to depend for help.
What are some things most family caregivers do?
They can stop by and check up on senior loved ones to be sure they are doing okay.
They keep in contact frequently in a variety of ways, including telephone, FaceTime, email and perhaps even Skype for long distance carers.
They often help with light housework, shopping, food preparation and companionship.
They can oversee seniors’ finances.
They perform hands-on care, including things nurses often do, like changing bandages or administering medications.
They go with seniors to healthcare appointments and drive them where they need to go when seniors are no longer safe behind the wheel.
They make sure they have what they need, like proper clothing, food in the fridge, a good book to read or a glass of water beside them when they are thirsty.
They try to help them stay well and enjoy their days.
If your senior needs a bit more help, perhaps more often than a family member can provide, then homemakers or helpers could be a good option.
Home helpers can cook meals and do the grocery shopping.
They can clean the house and do the laundry.
They may be able to provide your senior with transportation to doctor’s appointments, shopping, getting medicine, beauty shop trips and other places they want to visit.
Companions can come and just sit with your senior loved one to be sure they stay safe while family caregivers aren’t present and to provide some socialization so seniors aren’t lonely.
There are virtual versions of companions now that can help keep your senior company using technology.
Paid Home Care
Nursing services can help seniors with their medical needs.
Do they need help administering medications, monitoring their medical condition or blood work, or changing bandages?
There are many agencies available to that can provide these specialized services.
Your senior’s doctor is a good reference for these activities.
There are also centers available that seniors can attend during the day.
They generally serve a nutritious meal, offer a wide variety of activities, and provide social opportunities to keep attendees active.
Transportation to and from the centers is often available.
Respite care for family caregivers is available from a variety of organizations when they simply need a break in order to provide their best care to senior loved ones.
There are a variety of community resources and services that your senior will need as they age in place.
Think of all the things they have done around their house that they may no longer be able to do due to mobility or chronic health conditions.
Community resources will be able to complete these tasks for them, allowing them to stay in their homes.
Doing the yard work could be a definite need for seniors who want to live in their forever home but can no longer cut the grass, rake the leaves, clear the snow or prune the rose bushes away from the windows.
How about a handyman on speed dial who can change light bulbs, replace fire alarm batteries or repair the loose board on the front porch steps? There are going to be innumerable small home repairs that will be needed so befriending a good handyman will be vital to aging in place!
How about someone to do more detailed home repairs, such as widening the bathroom door so that the wheelchair will fit through it to use the bathroom? Maybe they want more lighting in dark spaces of the home or grab bars in the shower? A construction company, electrician, plumber and other home care experts will need to be available to get and keep your seniors home ready for aging.
The sooner larger home renovations are made, the easier it will be for your senior loved one to be safe and comfortable in their home.
Another community partner that may come in handy for seniors aging in place is a home meal delivery service. Your senior may not have the strength, interest or skills to cook healthy meals for themselves, at least once in a while. Instead of not eating and becoming malnourished, getting a company or agency to deliver healthy meals to their door is a great service to look for before it is needed.
There are many companies that provide this type of service and trying a few to find one that cooks food the way they want is a good thing to find ahead of time.
The beauty of a meal delivery service is that having someone besides a family caregiver come to the home each day allows another check on their well-being and someone to provide socialization.
This is a very new and, for some, controversial topic, but the rise of the robot caregiver is coming.
There are some already in use in other countries, doing some things that help to enhance aging in place for seniors.
They are not intended to replace a human’s touch but help with various tasks of caregiving, depending on the device.
We have had robotic vacuum cleaners in our homes for some time and these caregiving robots are not much different in concept.
Plan Ahead For Caregiving
Some of these options can be costly and are typically the responsibility of seniors or their families to pay.
Needless to say, this will require some advance financial planning. Don’t wait until it is needed to determine how seniors will cover the cost of their aging home care.
Understanding what their needs may be and that family caregivers can’t do it all for them is also a good conversation to have with your senior loved ones in advance.
Being realistic that family members need a support network of community helpers to keep seniors safe at home will be essential to meeting their needs without burnout!
Planning ahead and discussing all potential options for your senior loved one with the whole family including your senior loved one may result in more successful aging in place.