It can be a bit shocking when your parents suddenly need help. After all, they were taking care of themselves just fine, before you were born, right?
However, as we age, our ability to move and think and reason can become seriously compromised by ailments and disabilities. So seniors who wish to stay at home may often have to get some life skills “retraining” to adjust to the new realities of getting older. If you’re able to find life skills classes in your area, we highly recommend them. However, if you don’t have access to those, there are still a great many things you can go over with your loved one to help them stay in their home, aging in place, for as long as possible.
Evaluate fall risks in the home:
Work with your loved one to modify their home, and modify their daily routine to help prevent falls. “Fall proofing” a home for seniors can help keep many accidents from happening, and make a home more livable overall. For instance, if a senior is on a walker, eliminating coffee tables and piles of stored items on the floor will improve their mobility. Seniors who shuffle their feet will need to have throw rugs removed or anything that creates an uneven surface. Consider putting most used items in kitchen cupboards on the counter or lowest shelves, where they are easiest to get, and throw out clutter that can fall out of shelving. Install walk-in showers or sturdy grip rails in the bathtubs. And work with your loved ones to come up with solutions they buy into, so they have control over the changes. After all, the more they cooperate with the changes, the longer they can stay independent as possible in their own homes.
Embrace easy on, easy off clothes:
Does your loved one wear clothes that are too difficult for them to manage, like dresses that zip up the back, shirts with buttons they can’t manipulate, or shoes that limit their stride? Now is the time to replace those items with easy on, easy off clothing. Popovers, no zip dresses, pants and sweatpants with elastic waistbands and more can help a senior continue to dress themselves, longer. Consult catalogs that carry items for the elderly, as they often have assistance devices that can help them get jewelry on and off, and other items to help with dressing.
Simplify bath time:
Does your loved one have a haircut that is easy to style and maintain? Talk with their stylist about a cut that might be easier for them, or even perms that can offer no-hassle curl. Make sure the brushes and tools they use to manage their hair have a wide grip and are easy for them to handle.
When they are bathing or showering, are they able to reach their back or their feet? If the answer is no, then it might be time to invest in a bathing brush with a long handle that will allow them to wash those hard to reach places. Also, scrub brush appliques for the bottom of the shower can allow seniors to apply soap, and simply rub their feet in the brush to clean themselves right up.
Address Food Safety & Nutrition:
As we get older, the motivation to cook and shop wanes along with appetite. Now might be a good time to review what your loved one is eating, and work together to create menu items that are easier for them to fix, while still following their physician’s nutrition guidelines. Also, seniors living alone may need to learn how to fix less, to avoid spoilage, and how to read food labels to ensure they’re buying the best foods available. Creating a simple system of writing dates on leftover containers, or doing periodic clean outs of pantries, refrigerators or freezers may also help eliminate opportunities for food borne illnesses.
Redefine Financial Literacy:
As seniors get older, opportunities for missing bills and mishandling money abound. Work with your senior to develop a financial system that works for them. For instance, many regular bills, such as energy bills, can be modified to bill the same amount every month, and be automatically deducted from their accounts. Talk to them about simplifying investments and getting help with preparing their tax returns from a licensed professional. Consider getting a financial power of attorney set up so loved ones can seamlessly take over the paying of bills and handling of accounts if it becomes necessary. And most of all, help your loved one create a system where all the information about their money can be easily found in one place, and incoming mail is always stored and filed in a way they can easily remember.
To ensure seniors don’t overspend, establishing a weekly budget for food and other items will help them keep their arms around their finances.
Declining skills as we age are often inevitable. But declining independence doesn’t have to be, if you help seniors transition to their new stages with grace.