The 8 Best Ways to Care for Your Older Family
It’s hard when age-related issues begin impacting your family members. Some people need more care than others as they age, and there are ways you can help.
Assisting your aging loved ones is a way to give back for all they did for you. Here are the eight best ways to care for older family members.
1. Know Their Needs
As your family members get older, they will likely have more physical, mental or emotional needs.
When humans get older, their bodies become more fragile, turning things like cuts and minor falls into serious medical events.
Some older members may suffer from memory and other cognitive loss, needing support to remember events and tasks they need to complete. Others can just use a check-in from time to time.
When you know their needs, you can best help them live well.
2. Keep Them Involved
If you need to take over elements of a loved one’s care, it's necessary to keep them as involved as possible.
Even as mental and physical abilities lessen, it’s still important to ensure that you treat your loved ones with the respect they deserve. No one likes to lose their independence, and it can be hard for your family members to accept that they need assistance.
Keep them as involved as possible to help them feel more in control of their situation and can express their wants and needs to you and others taking care of them.
You can do this by helping them complete tasks instead of doing everything yourself. Let them call and set up appointments with you and allow them to communicate with professionals with your guidance. If you’re preparing baths, meals or shopping lists, allow them to help however they are able.
If your loved one is physically or cognitively unable to help with tasks, still speak to them like any other adult and explain what you are doing and why it's best for them.
3. Improve Home Safety
As your loved one’s bones and skin become more vulnerable to injury, you might need to help them improve the safety of their home.
This could include smoothing out any sharp edges they could bump into, adding a stairlift they can ride to avoid falling down stairs, installing an adaptive shower and bars in the bathroom that can help them stay steady or adding a ramp to get into and out of their home.
Speak to their insurance provider about coverage for safety and mobility aids. You can find many safety-improvement features at hardware or home health supply stores.
Make sure that your loved one is on-board with the changes before you make them, or they may refuse to use them.
4. Manage Medical Needs
Aging loved ones tend to have more medications and medical appointments than younger generations, and it’s important that they attend and take anything they need to stay healthy.
Stay organized by keeping a calendar with appointments, medication refill dates and any home health care visits to ensure your family member gets the care they need.
Many older people will become frustrated with managing their needs, so making it as easy as possible can ensure they take care of themselves. You can place medications for the week into easy-to-open weekly containers, so they don’t have to think about what they need and when.
It’s also a good idea to know what medical appointments they have at what time so you can help them get there on time. If your family member struggles cognitively, it may be best to go into the appointment or provide notes for the doctor or nurse regarding concerns your loved one may forget to mention.
5. Know Their Finances
Speaking to your aging loved one about their finances can be sensitive, but it's necessary if they cannot keep track of their income and bills.
The last thing you or your loved one wants is for them to get into legal trouble or be unable to afford what they need. By sitting down and going through their finances, you can help ensure they can keep up with all they need.
Ways you can support your loved one in this area are to set up automatic bill payments, track when they receive income and assist them with completing taxes.
If your loved one is mentally declining, it may be necessary to gain access to their bank account to best manage their needs.
6. Exercise With Them
Staying active is essential to staying physically or mentally fit, especially as you age. The same goes for your older loved ones.
Staying active helps preserve physical and mental capabilities. Getting your older family members exercising can help them stay healthier longer. It doesn’t mean you have to make them do sit-ups or run a mile. What it does mean is encouraging your loved ones to be active in whatever way they are active. Whether that’s walking around the neighborhood, taking the dog out, attending a senior fitness class or following along to chair exercise videos.
You can turn this activity into an enjoyable experience by participating in activities with them. Go walking with them or try a new online workout they can do. The social interaction will provide an additional benefit to their workout.
7. Provide Easy Communication Tools
Sometimes, as our loved ones age, it can be harder for them to communicate with the outside world. It can be harder to access and use phones they previously used. You can help by providing them access to communication tools they can easily use.
Several mobile phone manufacturers, like Jitterbug and Great Call, offer phones designed with the older population in mind. These phones utilize large buttons and easy-to-navigate menus to make calling and texting easier.
If your family member is a fall risk, consider getting them a wearable device that they can press during an emergency. Some even have fall-detection features that automatically call for help if your loved one cannot press it.
8. Engage With Their Hobbies
Life doesn’t stop with old age and your family members still have unique interests to encourage. Whether playing an instrument, crafting, volunteering or spending time with friends, it’s important to encourage and engage with their hobbies.
Having hobbies can enrich their mind and provide needed social stimulation. You can help by offering to drive them to and from events or picking up supplies.
Even complementing their work and encouraging them to do what they enjoy can raise their spirits and motivate them to put themselves out there.
9. Practice Self-Care
Becoming a caregiver is hard. No one wants to see their family member go through age-related struggles, and supporting their needs can take a toll on you.
By practicing self-care, you can be your best for your loved ones. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and take even a few hours to do something for yourself. Whether going to a salon, golfing with friends or visiting your favorite cafe, it’s not selfish to focus on you for a little while.
Frequent self-care opportunities can help prevent caregiver burnout and allow you to enjoy more moments with your loved ones.
Caring for Older Family Members
Caring for your older family is a noble task. By identifying their needs and supporting them, you can make the aging process easier for them and help them enjoy their retirement.
About the Author
Ava Roman (she/her) is the Managing Editor of Revivalist, a women’s lifestyle magazine that empowers women to live their most authentic life. When Ava is not writing you'll find her in a yoga class, advocating for body positivity, whipping up something delicious in the kitchen, or smashing the patriarchy.