Regardless of age, we all value our independence. We like to come and go as we please, running errands, going grocery shopping, and driving to appointments. But what happens when an aging parent, spouse, or relative is no longer physically able to drive or shop for everyday items? What if cognitive impairment creates an unsafe situation? Although none of us want to think about a parent or loved one’s declining health, it is important to plan for the future while encouraging your loved one to remain independent for as long as possible.
Here are a few strategies to help family caregivers support their loved ones amid changing circumstances:
Explore adaptive equipment options. An increasing number of devices are available to help older individuals perform the activities of daily living. For example, a simple tool may allow your loved one to continue cooking independently and safely, a computerized medication reminder could help with managing medications, and grab bars and a shower chair could help with independent bathing. When you are considering an aid or device, be sure to consult with a health care provider for proper use and safety precautions.
Consider a medical alert bracelet. Medical alert bracelets provide vital medical information to emergency responders about an individual’s medical conditions, allergies, medications, and dosages, allowing health care providers to deliver faster, safer treatment. Also available are 24-hour emergency response services that notify emergency responders and caregivers in the event of an emergency.
Encourage decision-making. Offer an older individual the opportunity to make decisions about routine tasks, like planning meals or choosing outfits to wear. This will help cultivate a feeling of independence.
Help your loved one maintain hobbies and social activities. Whether it is baking cookies for the grandkids, ballroom dancing, or playing bingo on Friday nights, hobbies provide physical, cognitive, and social benefits, and can also enhance quality of life. Offer to pick up supplies or drive your loved one to a class, if necessary. You may even decide to join in the fun.
Finally, start developing a plan with your loved one to meet the potential need for long-term care. Advance planning can allow you to investigate services in your community, learn about eligibility requirements for receiving services, and understand what services cost, as well as what payment options are available. Planning today for an uncertain tomorrow may help preserve family assets, provide more options for care, promote independence, and perhaps most importantly, ensure that you and your family are prepared for the future.