The elderly population is growing rapidly, and it’s essential to consider the care and treatment they will need as they age. According to the National Institute on Aging, by 2030, one in every five people in the U.S. will be over 65. That’s nearly 72 million people!
While some older adults can live independently without assistance, many will require some level of care. This may include help with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and grooming or managing medication or chronic health conditions.
The right type of care and treatment can make a massive difference in the quality of life for aging loved ones. Here are just a few statistics to underscore the importance of providing care for our elders:
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading cause of injury and death among adults over 65. One in every three seniors falls yearly, but many injuries can be prevented with proper fall prevention measures.
- The National Institute on Aging reports that dementia affects about 5 million Americans over age 65, which is expected to triple by 2050. Dementia can cause changes in mood, behavior, and ability to think clearly, so caregivers must be prepared to handle these changes.
- The American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) reports that nearly 90 percent of long-term care is provided informally by family members and friends. This can be a lot of pressure on those providing care, not to mention expensive! Caregiving can also take a toll on caregivers’ physical and emotional health.
Providing proper care for aging loved ones is essential for their safety and well-being. If you want to ensure you can care for them correctly, these tips are crucial.
Adjusting the Home
One of the most significant changes you can make to help your aging loved one is adjusting their home to make it safer. This may include:
- Installing grab bars in the bathroom
- Adding handrails on stairs
- Improving lighting throughout the home
- Removing throw rugs or other trip hazards
- Making sure all stairways have secure gates
- Organizing cupboards and shelves, so items are within easy reach
- Arranging for any needed home modifications, such as a wheelchair ramp
Even what looks like clear clutter can pose a safety hazard for someone with dementia. Be sure to declutter and organize the home to reduce trip hazards.
It’s also essential to monitor your loved one’s health as they age. Keep track of changes in weight, energy levels, sleep patterns, mood, and appetite. These changes could be early signs of an underlying health condition that needs medical attention.
You should also create a list of all medications your loved one is taking, both prescription and over-the-counter. Note down the dosage and frequency of each drug and keep it in a safe place, like a locked cabinet. This will come in handy if your loved one falls or becomes ill, and you must provide this information to medical professionals.
It’s also a good idea to list your loved one’s medical history, including allergies, conditions, surgeries, or procedures. This information can be critical in an emergency.
Ensuring Proper Nutrition
Nutritional needs change as adults age. According to the National Institute on Aging, older adults need more vitamin D and calcium to help keep bones strong. They also need more fiber to avoid constipation and maintain a healthy digestive system.
Older adults may not get enough of these nutrients if they don’t have a proper diet or cannot prepare meals for themselves. If you care for an aging loved one, ensure they eat nutritious meals and get the necessary vitamins and minerals.
You can help your loved one by:
- Planning and preparing meals together
- Grocery shopping with them or for them
- Cooking meals in bulk that can be frozen and eaten later
- Encouraging them to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day
- Make sure they stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
If your loved one has difficulty chewing or swallowing, many foods can be softer and easier to eat. There are also pureed foods available that can meet their nutritional needs.
Find Assisted Living Facilities
Unfortunately, you might struggle to fit everything into your schedule if you’re working or have other responsibilities. In this case, you may want to consider an assisted living facility.
Assisted living provides care for older adults who need help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and eating. They also offer social activities and transportation services. Most importantly, they can give you peace of mind knowing your loved one is safe and well-cared for when you can’t be there.
Choosing the right assisted living facility is crucial to ensure your loved one receives the best care. When considering a facility, be sure to:
- Schedule a tour
- Ask about staff qualifications
- Inquire about the types of services offered
- Find out what the facility’s policies are on things like medications, bedtime, and meals
- Get a feel for the overall atmosphere of the facility
You should also ensure the facility is licensed by the state and has a good reputation. Once you’ve found a few potential places, ask family and friends if they have any recommendations.
Moving your aging loved one into an assisted living facility is never easy. However, it may be the best option if you cannot provide the level of care they need.
Caring for an aging loved one can be challenging, but it’s also rewarding. It’s essential to stay organized and keep track of their medications, medical history, and nutritional needs. You should also create a support system of family and friends to help you with caregiving duties.
And finally, don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you need it. An assisted living facility may be the best option for your loved one if you cannot provide the level of care they need.