Caring for elderly parents often means helping them age independently and happily. By evaluating your loved ones' current living situations and making necessary changes, you'll increase the likelihood they'll be able to stay in their home for as long as possible.
Safely keeping dad where he wants to live
Here are five things you can do to ensure your loved ones will keep their independence in the years ahead.
1. Assess caregiving needs
Determine what your parent needs help with on a daily or weekly basis. Do groceries need to be delivered? Can your dad follow his medication schedule? Does he need help with housework? Evaluate his needs, and then match up service providers to take care of them.
For example, assess your parent's ability to drive. If he isn't capable of doing so without potentially causing injury to himself or others, then arrange other transportation options. Many municipalities, volunteer groups, and non-profit organizations offer seniors rides for a small fee, or even for free.
2. Make home modifications and use aging-in-place technologies
If your parents' home can't safely sustain them, it's impossible for them to remain there. Make modifications to their existing home or proactively look for a new residence. Consider tearing down walls to create a more navigable floor plan, install easier-to-access showers and sinks, and modify fixtures so they're more user-friendly.
Also look into home monitoring systems, which are becoming more sophisticated every year. Some technologies even have the ability to detect changes in your parent's activity.
For example, if the system senses that mom took a fall, it can send instant alerts to you and 911 in emergency situations. According to aging-in-place expert Laurie Orlov, "Using assistive technologies can extend the length of time an individual can stay home."
3. Find community resources
Up until recently, local resources for seniors mostly included adult day-care centers and Meals on Wheels programs. But as the population of adults aged 65-plus escalates during the next couple of decades, more resources will become available. One such resource is the village concept.
Villages connect members with resources they need to live at home safely and comfortably. Many villages are neighborhood organizations that rely on volunteers to provide services. For an annual fee, these communities help senior members manage household tasks they can no longer handle. When volunteers aren't able to provide services, villages refer members to discounted and vetted vendors. Look for a village close to your parents' home.
4. Enlist local support and companionship
Many adult children live hundreds, or even thousands, of miles from their parents. While Skype and phone calls are helpful, nothing substitutes live check-ins to make sure your parents are comfortable, safe, and happy. Identify and recruit local family members, friends, or neighbors who can stop in to be your eyes and ears.
If your parent is lonely and wants around-the-clock companionship, consider pet ownership.
Pets can reduce feelings of isolation and give us a focus outside ourselves. They allow us to take on a caregiving role that gives us a sense of purpose. PAWS' Seniors for Seniors adoption program places older dogs and cats with senior citizens.
5. Do the right thing
If you've made the necessary changes and you still feel dad is unsafe in his home, get him someplace secure. Your parent's safety is the first priority. Anything that will compromise his well-being isn't worth the independence of staying at home. While leaving one's home is difficult and often viewed as a last resort, quality of care means doing the right thing at the right time.
Caring for elderly parents is no small feat. But by taking these steps, you'll not only unburden your parents, but also increase their chances of aging in place independently, happily, and safely for as long as possible.