Looking after the needs of the elderly can be physically and emotionally draining for caregivers as it requires time, commitment, and hard work. Caring for an elderly individual who suffers a health disease or a particular condition can be even more demanding as they need extra and specific attention. Here are some tips to help you care for loved ones in the comfort of your home:
Make your home safe for elderly people by having anti-scald devices and grab bars installed in the shower and the restroom. Other key home alterations include improving lighting all over the house and removing any obstacles that might prevent them from moving around freely in order to avoid any falls.
Keep them active. Discuss – or have them discuss – the topic with their doctor who will make recommendations as to the most suited type of activity depending on their age and condition.
Rethink how you communicate with them. It might be tough at first, but improving your communication skills will be crucial to guarantee effective care. Always be positive and respectful to establish a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. Communicating with an elderly who suffers from dementia can at times be tricky. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the various situations that might arise when caring for an elderly with dementia:
- Ask simple questions and be patient in waiting for a reply.
- Do not try to convince them that they are wrong about something or that some event never occurred – people with dementia tend to be easily confused and often feel anxious; contradicting them might just end up worsening things. Try to soothe and reassure them as much as you can, and change the subject if possible.
Pay extra attention to their diet. The elderly are more vulnerable to malnutrition as they often suffer from diet-related diseases and as such lack valuable nutrients. Due attention needs to be paid to their diet to ensure that it is healthy, well-balanced and compatible with their condition. E.g. the elderly suffering from Willis disease must follow strict dietary requirements under the close supervision of a dietician. Caregivers looking after an elderly adult with dementia must curb their sugar and caffeine intake as they contribute to aggravating anxiety and sleeplessness.
Understand what might be triggering certain behaviours and take appropriate actions. E.g. In individuals suffering from dementia, wandering is a common behaviour and can arise because they either feel bored or as a side effect of a medication that they are taking or simply because they are under the impression that they have lost something. Observe their behaviour and reactions and try to identify triggering elements.
Do not overlook their emotional well-being. It can be easy to forget that aspect when one is focusing on ensuring that care receivers are fed properly or that their medications are taken at the right time. Keep in mind that a cancer or heart disease diagnosis does impact the morale of many patients, who might feel the loss of independence and lack of control over their life.
Involve them in the care process. It is important to acknowledge the care receiver’s opinions and desires as much as possible. Make sure that you involve them in decisions that directly affect them – as long as they are fit to make such decisions – and ask them whether they need your help in performing a certain task instead of doing it for them.
If your domestic helper is helping you care for an elderly parent who suffers a disease or a condition, she should be briefed about the specifics to be able to handle any situation that might come up – especially if you are not there. Proper training is key to ensure that she is fully equipped with the hard and soft skills necessary. Caregiving-related stress and fatigue build up and can have a huge impact on the caregiver; it is thus crucial for them to take care of themselves if they are to ensure the proper care of the elderly person.