Caring for Elderly Parents? Make Sure You Have These 4 Essentials
When it comes to providing quality care for a beloved aging parent, many a lesson are learned ‘on the job.’
Recognizing signs of cognitive decline, learning how to manage incontinence, getting loved ones out and exercising – and essentially becoming executive administrators of prescription refills, appointment wrangling and transportation – are just a handful of tasks you may already be dealing with.
You may read article after article about how to relieve stress, how to find support, and how to take care of yourself while taking on a caregiver role. However, few things do the trick when it comes to saving you time and stress like having the right tools and know-how at your disposal.
If you’re caring for elderly parents, make sure you have these four things on hand:
At times, caregiving will call upon you to take on nursing duties for which you might not feel equipped. So, it’s important to have assistive tools and knowledge to help.
You might be asking, “Shouldn’t vitals just be read at the doctor’s office?” The answer is no. Managing a log of vital signs at home helps you and your loved one to keep a baseline record of health.
It alerts you to changes and abnormalities as they arise and before they become serious problems. A vitals kit should contain a:
- Thermometer (measuring body temperature)
- Pulse oximeter (measuring pulse and oxygen saturation)
- Blood pressure cuff (measuring blood pressure)
You should know and understand how to use all of them. Establish a daily log that may also include comments on symptoms, appetite, etc. You may also want to learn how to measure respiration and breathing if your loved one has a disease like COPD, heart disease or chronic pneumonia.
It may seem like overkill, but for aging relatives who have a chronic disease or are specifically ill, this caregiving habit will prove to be a powerful tool for monitoring health and taking early, potentially life-saving, actions.
Ease-of-Use Tools for Caring for Elderly Parents
Want to make your life as a caregiver a little easier? Make your loved one’s life a little easier. There are loads of ease-of-use tools out there that can help an aging parent complete day-to-day tasks on their own.
This will not only simplify your life slightly, but it will also give them a sense of self-reliance and confidence, which is always a positive mood booster.
A reacher-grabber tool helps you reach up high or down low to grab items without extending yourself or having to bend/stoop over.
Handle grippers provide wider surface area on thin instruments, like forks and toothbrushes, with which to grab.
A wide remote is a larger, wider remote with big buttons that are easier to see and press. Dressing aids simplify the process of getting dressed, i.e., shoe horn or button hook aid.
A virtual assistant can help your loved one make calls, check email, listen to news or music, etc.
Printed Medicine List
As most caregivers know, there are some things you simply can never prepare for, and there are some you can. Being prepared for a trip to the emergency room or hospital is a must.
This means having a printed medication and patient information sheet at hand. You can give it to an EMT or medical attendant if your loved one is picked up from their home in an ambulance. Simply having it at registration if you take them to the E.R. is especially helpful. Why?
Because in the heat and chaos of a moment where your loved one does need to be transferred to the hospital, it is easy to forget exactly what their medicines are called, how many milligrams they are and at what frequency they take them.
Being able to share a page with all this information, clearly printed, so that it is passed on to the hospital and treating physician saves time, reduces the chance for error and shows the EMTs and hospital staff that you are serious about your loved one’s health and wellness.
On your printed medicine list, include:
- Name of prescribed medicines (with dosage and frequency)
- Name of over the counter medicines (with dosage and frequency)
- Important notes (i.e., baseline, responsiveness levels, wounds, recent procedures, etc.)
- Caregiver name and phone number
Fall Prevention Map
Almost 3 million people are seen in emergency rooms each year for fall-related injuries. For older adults those can often lead to hospitalization and life-threatening complications.
If your aging parent is living in their home, your home or even an apartment in a retirement community, conducting a ‘fall audit’ is a must.
In a fall audit, you want to scour your loved one’s living environment. Keep your eyes alert for things like:
- Trip hazards like cords on the ground or curled up rug corners;
- Dim lighting or lack of lighting at key pathways;
- Clutter like unused large furniture that is simply taking up space;
- Lack of rails or grab bars in tricky environments like stairs and bathrooms;
- Slick or slippery surfaces like on an outdoor walkway or ramp.
Updating a living environment to make it safer and more navigable for your loved one also promotes their own independence, which can boost their overall self-confidence and sense of worth.
Caregiving is a tough business. A fulfilling one – yes, but tough all the same. When it comes to embracing the caregiving role, it never hurts to ask, “Is there an easier way?” Oftentimes, there is. This is especially true when caring for elderly parents.
The right tools, instruments, and knowledge can go a long way to saving you (and your loved one) stress, time and strife.
Are you a caregiver? What caregiving tools have you found helpful? Do you have a special trick or tip for caring for elderly parents? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!