Support Elderly Needs

Estimates are that as many as 50% of those over 85 suffer from some form of dementia. These individuals are often affected in terms of judgment (forgetting, for example, how to use certain household appliances); sense of time and place (becoming easily lost amid once familiar surroundings); behavior (easily confused, suspicious and/or fearful); physical abilities (difficulties with balance and ambulation); and senses (eyesight;  sensitivity to temperature;  depth perception).

To help elderly parents and community seniors cope with aging, caregivers should take the following steps:

Take a long look around the house, apartment, living space, and external environs. This includes stairs, cellar, kitchen, hallways, bathrooms, bedrooms, and garage. Are there potentially dangerous areas? Are walkways clear, and consistent? Are there cords or wires which may be hazardous? Does the cellar door need to be locked? Creating a more safe environment may require hiding tools or sharp objects to removing any potentially dangerous medications from medicine cabinets. Conduct a home assessment of your elderly parents  and areas where they live.   There may be some simple adjustments that will improve a senior’s living environment.

Simplify activities. Most accidents occur when the elder is rushed. To alleviate this problem, break activities into simple, step-by-step tasks, allowing the individual sufficient time to complete them. For example, if the person is having a problem brushing his or her teeth, model the action first or prepare the toothbrush with water and toothpaste.

Support the individual’s needs.  Make sure the home encourages independence, social interaction and meaningful activities. This may include putting grab bars in the entries of the home as well as the bathroom; engaging them to limit boredom, agitation and depression; and communicating effectively.

Avoid Caregiver Burnout

Caregivers need to protect themselves against burnout. This means recognizing the symptoms and getting help sooner rather than later. This may mean bringing in another family member or a certified home health aide to watch the patient for several hours every week or over a weekend.

Dealing with dementia is a challenge. Yet, when handled successfully, individuals can maintain some sense of independence and remain at home years longer – which is often the preferred option – while reducing the level of stress on the caregiver.

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 - John D. Miller is the owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions. He can be reached at: (781) 378-2164; email: jdmiller@homecarepartners.biz ; or online at:  www.homecarepartnersma.com

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