Knowing what is involved when trying to caring for the elderly family member is essential in meeting the considerable challenges it presents.
As people age, they usually reach a point where they need assistance with the tasks of daily living. This can often be difficult for the older person in terms of adjustment and also equally difficult for any person who has the responsibility of providing the care or arranging for it to be provided by others.
Caring for the Elderly Family Member
When an elderly parent reaches the point of requiring assistance, the critical time usually occurs if they are left alone, having been widowed through the loss of a partner.
Identifying the Need for Elderly Care
Gradually things begin to happen that indicate the need for greater care and support than they can provide for themselves. No doubt, many families will have stories to tell about the unfortunate events that occur.
The list I have heard covers such gems as putting the tea towels in the gas oven to dry, leaving the garden hose running for days at a time, not cooking proper meals, forgetting to dress appropriately, and falling and breaking bones.
Other family members must monitor the situation regularly. If the aging person is relatively close to them, this is usually not too difficult. However, this desirable scenario is not the norm, and frequently families may be a long way from the person concerned, and so they are reliant on infrequent visits.
In these cases, it becomes necessary to utilize the help of the aged person’s friends and neighbors to provide regular updates on how they are coping.
The Available Choices in Providing Care for the Elderly
Once the situation reaches a point where the elderly person requires assistance, then there are many options to consider and choices to be made. Identifying the exact nature of the care that is needed is an essential first step. It is useful to think in terms of two broad groupings – medical care and non-medical care.
In the case of medical care, the following services may be pertinent:
- home health care
- personal care such as bathing, grooming, and toileting
- physical therapy
- house calls or visiting a local doctor
- meal provision
- administering medicines
In the case of non-medical care, then the relevant factors may include:
- home care maintenance
- financial planning
- transport for shopping or other purposes
- emergency transport
- house cleaning
It is at this point that the family carers need to consult with a variety of community services to ascertain which services are best suited to meeting the identified needs. Usually, it is possible to obtain a professional evaluation of the needs of the person.
For example, an assessment of daily functioning skills by an occupational therapist along with an evaluation and recommendations concerning in-house modifications.
It is essential to realize that both of these types of care can be provided in the elderly person’s residence. This is usually the best option, if at all possible, as the elder will feel relatively comfortable with support in familiar surroundings.
Often the care programs that are put in place necessitate a mix of professional services and the support of family and friends. This mix of support services requires constant evaluation as the demands of the family and friends may become too arduous.
When this happens, there may be unfortunate consequences for those involved, such as health issues and problems with family dynamics.
If the elderly person cannot have their needs met within their own home, then a transfer to a supported living environment may be required. There is an enormous variety of such services to choose from, ranging from independent living units, supported living units to full-time nursing care.
The options available will vary from community to community, city to city, country to country. The sobering fact is that the demand usually exceeds the supply.
Planning ahead is, therefore, an essential element in Caring for the Elderly, and this needs to be accompanied by excellent communication between family members and the elderly person.
Elders often have useful insights into what their needs are and may have strong preferences that need to be taken into account.
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