It’s increasingly common for adult children to live at some distance away from their parents; in the case where parents are elderly and/or frail, some important steps can be taken to help ensure the safety and comfort of your parents, as well as giving you increased peace of mind. Use the guide below to put in place measures that could make a big difference to your life and the lives of your parents.
Collect Together Important Information
It’s a great idea to collect and collate all of the important information regarding your parents’ care and health, either in a notebook or, ideally, a shareable file that can easily be disseminated as needed. This information could include general information such as dates of birth and address, as well as details of medication currently being taken, conditions suffered from, allergies that are present, emergency contact telephone numbers, such as that of their doctor and caregivers, and information on any care provided in the home that’s currently in place.
As part of your notes, gather together the contact details of several neighbors or closeby friends of your parents who would be happy to act as emergency contacts when help needs to arrive quickly.
Be sure that this notebook or file is stored where it can be easily located, and let key family members or other carers know of its existence. Keeping it updated is important: amend it as soon as any details change.
Install a Medical Alert System
A medical alert system could be one of the most effective things you can install to keep your elderly loved one safe and are especially useful for those who are at risk of a fall or have a health issue that can manifest symptoms unexpectedly. Systems usually offer 24/7 monitoring or will connect to an emergency response team if the alert button is pressed. Read more here about the various options in this regard.
Many alert systems are now extremely discreet (often having the appearance of a watch or other item of jewelry) and can be worn on the wrist or as a pendant, and can connect to Wifi and smartphone apps. Fall detection features are an option, too, and some systems can be set so that when the alert button is pressed a family member or caregiver receives an email or text message, raising the alarm.
With falls one of the leading causes of injuries (and a significant cause of fatalities) among the aging population, a medical alert system is an important means of keeping your loved one safe and, in the event, this occurs, enables them to summon help quickly.
Make The Home As Safe As Possible
Ensuring that your parents’ home is as safe as an environment as possible is crucial and may be easier than you think. Start by fully assessing their home, looking for any potential hazards; these could be in the form of areas of uneven flooring, rugs that aren’t secured to the floor, or heavy kitchen equipment kept on a high shelf.
Resolve each issue that you have identified. Many things may be quick and easy to rectify; for example, a ramp can be used where flooring is uneven or the furniture in the room rearranged so that this area is no longer a pedestrian walkway. Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors should be installed and checked regularly. If your parent tends to sudden dizzy spells, which can result in a fall, then you could place a chair in the kitchen and bathroom so that they can quickly take a seat if they start to feel wobbly. Remove any trip hazards by tidying away electrical wires and cables and making sure that high traffic areas are clutter-free. Fit non-slip mats to the bottom of bathtubs and showers, and rearrange items and utensils in the kitchen so that the things that are used most often (or are heavy) are within the easiest reach.
Some things may require you to instruct a contractor: if handrails are needed outside your parents’ house to assist them in getting safely in and out of the home, or if a wet room has become a less hazardous option than a shower/bath set-up, then you’ll likely need to hire a professional to make these installations.
Attend Appointments Together
Even if you live at some distance from your parents, if you can attend medical, legal, financial, or care review appointments with them (if they are happy for you to do so), then this is a helpful way to support them and to ensure that they are getting the care or services that are most beneficial for them. It’s best to prepare a list of questions or any concerns you have ahead of the appointment, taking into account any that your parents have, too. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on any point during the meetings or to ask for a second opinion if you believe one is required.
You may need to obtain legal authorization to enable you to discuss your parents’ personal affairs with a professional individual or organization, and so ensure that this is in place, again, if your parent fully agrees to this.
Share The Care
If your parents require a significant amount of care, and an elderly care home is not what they want at this point, then you may want to consider splitting the care with siblings and other family members. A family meeting could be useful in setting up and arranging this: perhaps, if you have three siblings, each would be happy to provide live-in care for a week on a rota basis. Or, maybe, if you live far away from your parents, but have siblings who live close by and so, as a result, tend to provide the majority of the day-to-day care, then you could offer to have your parents stay with you for an extended period, for a few times a year.
Look After Yourself
It can be very easy when you’re caring for an elderly parent and possibly working and looking after your own young family at the same time to forget about your own wellbeing. However, it’s really important to take good care of yourself to prevent exhaustion and stress from creeping up on you, and preventing this should be a priority. Be sure to take regular time-out for self-nurturing – for a walk, a deep, long bath, or an evening out at the cinema with friends – and be mindful that you are getting enough sleep, and eating a nutritious diet, too.
Lisa has a Bachelor’s of Science in Communication Arts. She is an experienced blogger who enjoys researching interesting facts, ideas, products, and other compelling concepts. In addition to writing, she likes photography and Photoshop.