How to Help The Elderly DEC 2020
Many seniors prefer to age in place in the comfort of their home instead of in assisted living or a long-term care facility. Living independently may come with challenges; but with support, older adults can overcome their issues to live securely on their own terms.
To do this, however, may require elderly homeowners to remodel or repair their homes to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility aids or medical equipment. Family members or friends can help by working on the projects themselves, or hiring contractors, or contacting community programs that provide funds to pay for repairs and modernize seniors’ homes.
For instance, the Area Agency on Aging has information on home modification and repair funds provided by the Older Americans Act. Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Section 504 Program provides grants to very-low-income homeowners to remove health and safety hazards from their homes.
Besides home repairs, ensuring that seniors have support for activities of daily living plays a key role in successfully aging in place.
Helping With Daily Living Needs
Helping the elderly with their daily living activities requires knowing what they can and cannot do on their own. Daily routines that older adults need help with include:
Bathing or Showering
Some older adults can safely bathe or shower on their own, but some may need a shower chair or a tub transfer bench to get in and out of a tub or shower stall.
Older adults who have difficulty lifting their legs to step in and out of a bathtub may need to have the tub converted into a shower or have a portion of the tub cut out to lower the threshold. Grab bars are essential to give seniors stability and non-slip mats reduce the risk of falls in the tub or shower.
When it comes to washing, a long-handled applicator to put in bath gel or lotion or a long-handled sponge to wash the back and other hard-to-reach places will help.
Grooming, Dressing, and Toileting
Seniors who have trouble raising their arms to comb or brush their hair may benefit from such items as a long-reach hair brush or comb. For seniors who have difficulty bending over to put on socks and shoes, there are long-handled sock aids that open a sock and long-handled shoe horns help with slipping on shoes.
A similar long-length aid is a dressing stick that’s ideal for people with limited mobility, weak hand strength, or who have difficulty bending over. The sticks usually have a small hook on one end that picks up the edges of clothes or opens and closes zippers. The other end has a larger hook that pushes on or takes off clothing without snagging them.
Family and friends may feel uncomfortable when it comes to helping an older adult with toileting. And, at the same time, an older adult may feel embarrassed about getting help with toileting. Fortunately, seniors can use long-handled toilet aids with a flexible head that holds toilet tissue for wiping. These aids are ideal for seniors who want to manage toileting on their own.
A number of household devices and tools make it easier for seniors to take care of household chores. Some of the most popular for seniors are:
- Sturdy step stools with handles
- Step trash cans that open by pressing a foot pedal
- Robotic vacuum cleaners that operate via remote control
- Reacher grabber tools—long sticks with ”claws” or grabbers—that act as extended arms by pulling items off and back on shelves.
- Long-handled cleaning tools for cleaning in crevices, corners, ceilings and other high places.
Also helpful is a front-load washer and dryer set that limits movements when loading and unloading laundry. A person with back issues or who has problems with reaching, for example, could benefit from these appliances.
While digital devices and equipment powered by artificial intelligence are beneficial to seniors, there’s nothing like help from a human caregiver who can assist in every aspect of daily living.
Family and friends usually start with caregiving duties but when a senior’s health condition begins to change, professional caregivers, such as home health aides, live-in caregivers, certified nursing assistants, may be hired to provide additional support.
Caregivers help with daily living activities such as:
- Changing and making beds
- Planning and preparing meals
- Helping seniors feed themselves
- Running errands
- Grocery shopping
- Providing transportation to appointments or social activities
- Giving medication reminders
Most importantly, caregivers can help seniors stay physically active and provide the companionship seniors need in their lives each day.
Helping During COVID-19 Lockdown
Social interaction is vital to seniors who live on their own, but the unprecedented coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have forced many older adults to stay indoors. According to health officials, adults over 65 and those with underlying chronic health conditions are at a high risk for having complications from COVID-19 if they become infected with the disease.
Since physical contact is discouraged, there are a number of ways to help during the pandemic:
Help seniors stay connected. Dr. Ria Paul, geriatrician at Stanford Health Care in Palo Alto, California, recommends helping seniors stay connected with family and friends digitally by teaching them how to video chat. Whether it’s FaceTime or Skype on a smartphone, laptop, or tablet, teaching seniors how to become better with technology eases the social isolation woes. Caregivers or family members can show seniors how to set up a video chat or walk them through it over the phone.
Make sure seniors have food. Seniors who do not have transportation will be in need of food. So, shopping for groceries, paying for a delivery service, or donating to local food banks and community feeding programs that serve the senior population provides older adults with a regular supply of food.
Provide emotional support. Just as important as helping with food is providing social interaction and being ready to lend a listening ear. According to Elizabeth St. John, a licensed clinical social worker at Stanford Health Care, older adults need someone who will listen to them and “validate their feelings.”
St. John recommends being a person who can “bear witness” to an older adult’s “sadness, stress and anxiety” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Becoming an “emotional support system” is also vital in helping the elderly fend off isolation and depression.
What’s more, providing this support is not just the job of one person, St. John recommends family members and friends join in the effort, even if it means creating a “virtual hangout.”
After all, providing emotional support to the elderly is just as important as ensuring that their homes do not pose safety risks and helping them with their daily living activities.