Reaching old age brings out a lot of sobering realities for all of us. It shows us that our minds and bodies are changing and will never be what they once were, and that we will have to adjust to the changes accordingly.
Part of these changes directly affect how we approach life. We must be careful about what we eat, where we travel, and how we manage stress. We have to plan things better, take less chances physically, and give ourselves more time to get even the most common tasks done.
For those family members who find themselves caring for elderly relatives, it can be challenging to accept that your loved one is no longer able to function at the level you have been used to seeing. It is unsettling to see that aging creates the need for role reversals, requiring the former caretaker to become the one needing the care.
Although this reality can be daunting, the way to create a productive situation for all involved is to focus on the needs rather than why the needs have come about. In other words, those who need to care for their elderly relatives should do, rather than think. This approach allows the relative to be helpful at a critical time rather than paralyzed by the situation. Here is what a relative can do to help.
An elderly person has not asked to become less able, it is just a function of time that eventually happens to all of us if we live to an old age. In most cases the elderly person regrets having to ask for assistance by others, but realizes that without that help they would not be able to function. So the elderly person must deal with both the physical and mental challenges that their limited capacity presents. For this reason caretakers should be understanding toward the person. Let them know that you are helping out of love and that it is your responsibility to be kind to them because they are your elder. Also, expect that the elderly person may have some rough days and not feel good about the situation. These are the times to be your nicest and show the most compassion.
Modify Their Homes
Many elderly people have limited mobility and cannot do things like get to the bathroom or refrigerator easily. Find ways to assist them to get to these places including widening doors and moving any furniture that may be in their way. Also remove any loose rugs that might cause them to trip or slip.
Homes with stairs present an especially big challenge. If the elderly person sleeps on the second floor, getting up to that second floor and down again can cause anxiety and fear, especially if the staircase is curved. A great solution is to get a curved stair lift installed. These motorized seats can carry and elderly person up and down a flight of stairs safely, and they move out of the way when not in use. Installing one can offer the elderly person an amount of freedom and independence, because he or she can operate it alone.
Caring for an elderly relative is an important job and anyone tasked with this responsibility should not take it lightly and put safety first. Do all you can to be of great help because remember, someone might have to take care of you someday too.