Now that we’ve made it through almost a full year of the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are pondering the best way to care for their aging parents. Like many adult children, you may find that your own older parents are suffering from diminished reflexes and other health problems that leave them prone to accidents.
In the past, that may have meant taking up residence in a nursing home – but news of the rapid spread of illness in such facilities has left many people wary. In fact, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care, overall nursing home occupancy dropped from 83.4 to 74.8 percent in 2020.
The alternative? Aging in place.
Most seniors report that, given the choice, they’d like to grow old in their own home, surrounded by their treasured possessions and cherished memories. But now, more than ever, it’s important that these older adults have a support network in place.
Keep reading for our best tips on safety and support modifications that can help give you and your loved one peace of mind, during COVID-19 and beyond.
Physical changes to the home
About one in four adults aged 65+ falls each year: Many seniors have sensory impairments, like poor hearing and vision, or a physical limitation that contributes to this risk. To help create a safe environment, consider:
- A stairlift or electronic chair lift
- Handheld shower hoses
- Shower benches
- Raised toilet seats
- Wider doors for wheelchair access
- Ramps to replace (or in addition to) stairs leading into the home
- Better lighting (a typical 85-year old needs three times more lightthan a teen)
- Placing commonly used items where they can be reached without stopping or reaching
- Grab bars wherever necessary (they’re not just for the bathroom!)
Maintaining a nutrient-dense diet is important in older adults, yet many of them have a hard time preparing their own meals or even eating on their own. Here’s how to help them get the nutrition they need:
- Arrange for more meals to be provided by family members or friends
- Stock the fridge with protein-rich foods and meal-replacement shakes
- Sign up for a meal delivery service
- Contact Meals on Wheels or a similar programif you are unable to help on your own
- Show your loved one how to use an online grocery shopping app
- Ask their doctor about switching medications which may suppress appetite
According to a recent national survey, one in four Americans over the age of 65 take between 10 and 19 pills a day. That’s a lot to keep track of! How can you help?
- Sign up for prescription delivery
- Schedule reminder phone calls
- Purchase an automatic dispenser with an alarm
- Routinely clean out the medicine cabinet and get rid of expired or discontinued medications
- Use separate medicine cabinets if more than one person is living in the home
- Make sure a step stool isn’t needed to reach those cabinets
- Save all of the written information that comes with the medications in one place
Without a reliable way to get to doctor appointments or go grocery shopping, seniors can’t realistically stay in their homes as they age. It’s essential that affordable transportation be available to help them maintain their independence. Options include:
- Local senior centers
- County public transportation
- State Department of Health and Senior Services
- Family and friends
- Volunteers from a church or synagogue
- Ride-sharing services (there are several options just for seniors)
- And for those in our local area, there are these two fantastic choices:
– Somerset County para-transit services and community transportation
Help with household chores
Due to pain, illness, injury, or other health issues, many older adults can no longer complete certain chores on their own. These tend to be the most difficult:
- Carrying hampers or laundry baskets
- Making the bed
- Taking the trash or recycling to the curb
- Cleaning the floors
- Scouring the bathroom
- Organizing/dusting high shelves
Services that come to the home
Today, many healthcare and personal care services can be provided in-home to help extend a senior’s independence, including:
- Doctors who make house calls (even simple x-rays can be completed in the home!)
- Traveling podiatrists and dentists
- Hairdressers and nail technicians
- Mobile pet grooming and veterinary services
These days, more than ever, safety is of the utmost importance. While helping your older loved ones set up systems to keep them safely at home, it’s vital to keep their health and wellbeing top of mind.
If outside vendors or care providers will be entering the home, make sure everyone wears a mask the entire time and uses hand sanitizer as necessary. Whenever possible, set up no-contact delivery for goods such as groceries or takeout – most businesses are happy to leave deliveries on the porch and ring the bell. And always set up tele visits or video calls for appointments when it’s offered as an option!
Planning ahead is the key to helping older adults live their lives to the fullest. A strong support system and adequate safety measures can keep your loved one independent for a longer time.
For many seniors, in-home care is the right answer. If you or a loved one are considering in-home care services, we can provide non-medical support and assistance to adults with disabilities or those recovering from an illness or surgical procedure. In addition, home care services often complement other types of care someone may already be receiving in their home, such as hospice or skilled home health care.