As parents get older, adult children often find that caregiving responsibilities fall on them. Even when elderly parents are in good health, their needs will continue to change over time, and they may soon need extra support.
Figuring out elderly parents’ needs, understanding the options, and making decisions about how to support them can feel overwhelming. If you need to start considering how to care for your elderly parents, this guide is a great place to start.
We will share practical tips and advice to help you care for your elderly parents and keep them safe and happy at home. Firstly, let’s look at practical steps you can take to encourage safety and well-being. Then we will detail a step-by-step process for understanding your parents’ care needs and how to make a support plan.
Practical tips for safety and well-being
Maintain daily routines
Routines are incredibly helpful. For elderly people especially, keeping a regular daily routine is reassuring and helps them to structure their day and feel in control. You can assist your parents’ routine by setting days and times when you plan to visit, help do the groceries, or other regular tasks to support them. When setting routines always involve your parents so they don’t feel that you are imposing on their lifestyle or trying to control their life.
Make the home safe
Whether your parents have good mobility or not, assessing the home for trips and fall hazards is crucial to their well-being. Even if your parents are agile now you can expect their mobility to change over time. Falls at home contribute to a huge number of injuries for elderly people and so should be avoided at all costs.
Take the time to assess each room in your parent’s house and look out for these potential issues:
- Cluttered rooms and floors with things being stored on the floor or stairs.
- Rugs, floors and slippery surfaces – rugs that are not securely attached can be easy to trip on, as are carpets that are loose or torn. If there are mats by the sink or stove, make sure they are on a non-slip surface.
- Steps and stairs – Are handrails fitted next to all steps and stairs? Look out for any uneven, loose, or broken steps. Ensure the area is well-lit and any clutter on the floor is removed from that area.
- Bathrooms can be dangerous if not adapted to elderly people’s needs. Grab rails next to the toilet and bath may be needed. Use non-slip mats around the bath, shower and sink. Consider a shower seat and check that the shower head is easy to adjust and at the right height so as not to cause a slip.
- Reaching and stretching to reach stored items can easily cause an accident. Keep items that are most used on shelves about chest or waist-high. This helps to avoid bending or reaching for them.
- Electrical and telephone cords can also be hazardous. Be sure that all electrical or phone cords are out of pathways. Coil loose cords or tape them down so they can’t catch on people’s feet.
Encourage exercise and socialising
Keeping active is critical for good physical and mental health in old age. Encourage your parents to maintain an active lifestyle, even if it only entails a daily walk or some light stretching. Social activities are also a great way to promote movement and stay socially connected.
Find out what activities and social events your parents enjoy and then see what’s available in your area for elderly people. Age UK has a useful search tool on their website for finding elderly people’s social activities in specific areas.
Help them stay connected
While elderly group activities encourage social inclusion you also want to find ways for your parents to stay connected to friends and family. It’s common these days for families to live geographically apart. If your parents live far away, set up a weekly family phone or video call.
If it’s difficult for your elderly parent to join in social activities or for you to schedule regular family calls, consider home care services such as companionship home care. There is a wide variety of home care services for elderly people, such as companion care – which involves a professional carer visiting your parent or parents regularly on agreed days and times to provide companionship. This could simply be a cup of tea and a chat, or sharing a meal together, but can also include assisting your parent to a social event, going for a walk or visiting the local shops.
How to know when your elderly parents need extra support
Now let’s take a look at a step-by-step process for understanding your parent’s care needs and planning for any care and support they need.
Understanding your elderly parent’s care needs
It can be difficult to know what help an elderly parent needs, and it is common that elderly people often do not recognise areas in their lives where they need extra support.
To understand each of your parent’s care requirements, you need to be aware of their physical and mental health and their daily routines. This allows you to identify challenges where they may need additional support. For example, if your parents have difficulty preparing nutritious meals, they may need to help with grocery shopping and meal preparation.
Encourage gentle open discussions with your parents about what things they find challenging or could do with some extra help. Remember that most elderly people value their independence greatly. They may become anxious that you are trying to control their life or worried that if they express a need for extra support it may be misconstrued that they are unable to cope. Be sensitive to their concerns.
Observing your parents’ daily routines and how they manage at home can give great insights and open up topics for further discussion with your parents.
Talk with your parents and plan ahead
It’s always better to plan ahead for any changes needed to your elderly parents’ care or living arrangements rather than wait until a crisis hits or care needs become urgent. It is also a great way to discuss what type of care your parents are open to now and in the future, so you understand their wishes and preferences.
For many elderly people, planning can be challenging, especially around the topic of living arrangements and care needs. It can be frightening for elderly people to think of what the future may bring, and burying their heads in the sand can be a coping mechanism. Be aware of this and approach all discussions with sensitivity and empathy.
Early planning and discussions give the opportunity to consider things such as moving elderly parents nearer to where you live and the type of elderly care your parents would like if their needs become greater.
Research care options for the elderly
Once you understand your parents’ care needs and their wishes and preferences you can start to research what options are available to them.
The vast majority of older people, when asked, say they want to remain living in the comfort of their own homes rather than move to a residential care home. Thankfully there is a wide range of cost-effective home care options and residential-type facilities available today to choose from.
Here are some of the options for elderly people who need extra support:
- Visiting care – is a great option for elders who have limited care needs.
- Live-in care – A professional carer lives in the home, providing all-day support.
- Round-the-clock home care – 24-hour care is most suited to elders with complex care needs who need assistance during the night.
- Care home – residential care for those with limited health needs but require support throughout the day.
- Nursing home – residential care for those with more complex health conditions and care needs.
- Assisted living – residential option that maintains privacy and independent living but offers more support than sheltered housing.
- Sheltered housing – Suitable for elders who are independent and have no specific care needs but want the reassurance of emergency support if needed.
Involve healthcare professionals
If your elderly parents have existing health conditions you need to factor in their current health needs and how they may change in the future. The type of health conditions your parent’s experience may affect what type of care and support is most suitable for them.
Involve your parents’ healthcare team in any care planning where necessary. An effective and efficient way of doing this is with a care needs assessment. A care needs assessment is free and can be carried out by your parents’ primary healthcare team or through a CQC-regulated home care provider, such as Trinity Homecare.
The care needs assessment involves a team of healthcare professionals, such as a social worker and occupational therapist, making an at-home assessment of your parent’s needs and abilities with daily tasks. Family and those involved in existing care are encouraged to contribute. The assessment team will then create a care plan, giving advice and suggestions as to the best way forward.
Make a plan together
Once you understand what your parents’ care needs are, their wishes and preferences, and the care plan recommendations, you can talk together to make a plan for care.
This can be an incredibly daunting time for an elderly person. They fear the loss of independence and find big changes very stressful. You may find your parents resistant to change, even when they can see the value and benefit of the extra care being offered. Take your time, don’t rush them and try to explore and answer all their concerns.
At Trinity Homecare, we often find that clients can be initially resistant or dubious about the home care they receive. Once care begins, and they get to know their friendly carer, all their fears and worries disappear. In fact, most of our clients say their carer is a trusted friend, like one of the family, and they look forward to seeing them each time.
A good way to introduce home care is on a temporary trial basis. This way elders don’t feel pressured and they can see if they like it without a long-term commitment. At Trinity Homecare, our clients are always pleasantly surprised and trial home care almost always turns into long-term support.
The benefits of home care
The benefits of home care are many. Home care services not only increase independence, but they also nurture physical, emotional and physiological well-being while remaining in the comfort of one’s home surrounded by cherished memories, friends and neighbours.
The advantages of home care go beyond the person receiving the care, it gives reassurance and respite to loved ones who may otherwise worry about them or struggle to help them.
Home care services can help:
- Maintain independence and freedom of choice
- Avoid moving into residential care and thus maintain daily routines and autonomy
- Provide bespoke one-to-one support for specific needs and preferences
- Remain in a much-loved home, surrounded by memories, pets and local community
- Give flexible support that can be efficiently adapted to changing needs
- Deliver condition-led support for dementia care, cancer care, or other complex care requirements
- Provide relief to family caregivers
- Contribute to social interaction and companionship
- Save money, as home care is usually more affordable than residential care
How to arrange home care
Whether you have decided on home care as a solution to your parents’ care needs or you are gathering information and looking for advice, our expert care team is here to help you. We offer a free, no-obligation enquiry service that includes conducting an at-home care needs assessment and creating a bespoke care plan tailored to the individual’s needs.