If you’re lucky enough to have an elderly relative who is still living, you are probably well aware of how privileged you are to still have this relationship. You can learn a great many things from an older person; for instance, hearing the benefit of their life experiences when you are struggling with a situation, and hearing their first-hand account of historical events and daily life in another era. However, you will have probably noticed that your relative faces various challenges related to their age. Read on to discover seven ways that you can help an elderly relative.
1. Take them shopping
Your relative might have lost their confidence with driving or taking public transport, perhaps due to certain health conditions: cataracts can make it difficult to focus and see clearly when driving, and a person with dementia might find navigating public transport stressful, particularly if a well-used route has changed. In addition to these challenges, they might physically struggle to carry large, heavy bags of shopping. Why not help your relative by taking them to do their weekly shopping? This will help to establish a sense of routine for them, and you can physically help with carrying bags and reaching for items on higher shelves. You could also build in a refreshment break at a coffee shop, turning a mundane weekly chore into a fun social engagement that helps to strengthen your bond.
2. Help with household chores
Your relative is probably keen to retain as much independence as possible in their old age, and remain in their own home. However, they might need some assistance in carrying out certain household chores that now might be physically risky. For instance, using ladders to clean the windows might result in a fall if they are unsteady on their feet. Discuss with your relative any chores that they struggle to complete and draw up a rota of when each task will be carried out. For instance, you might spend one morning every week helping your relative with their housework, while they do their daily washing up after meals.
3. Investigate assisted living facilities
It might be the case that, rather than living alone, your relative would thrive in an assisted living facility. These will provide any additional support and healthcare your relative needs to carry out their daily routine, while also enabling them to remain as independent as possible. Look for assisted living near me to find facilities close to where you live. An assisted living facility can also provide your relative with a ready-made community of others of a similar age group, along with many social activities such as common areas for dining and entertainment, and excursions. This helps to combat the loneliness and isolation experienced by many older people who live alone.
4. Add mobility aids to your relative’s home
There are many mobility aids available to help your relative if they are determined to remain in their own home. First and foremost, assess the property with your relative’s needs in mind. Would they benefit from a stairlift if their home covers several stories? Don’t be automatically put off if the set of stairs in question is an unusual configuration; stairlift companies are experienced in finding mobility solutions for all types of situations. A damp and slippery bathroom can increase the risk of falls, especially if the person is unsteady on their feet, and as such you might want to consider adding mobility aids to the bathroom. These might include a walk-in shower, hand rails to hold on to, and a stool to sit on while bathing.
5. Take your relative to hospital appointments
Hospital appointments are intimidating for anyone, despite your age, but as you get older and experience the various physical wear and tear associated with old age it can sometimes seem that not a week goes by without an appointment. By accompanying your relative to hospital appointments, you will provide some much appreciated moral support. In addition to this, you could also provide some practical support by finding rooms in large and often confusing healthcare facilities, ‘translating’ any medical speak so that your relative will understand what is being said, and identifying beforehand exactly what questions need to be asked in order to obtain as much medical information as possible.
6. Encourage your relative to talk about their feelings
Depression is a condition that affects people regardless of age. With physical challenges confining many older people to their home and the gradual loss of their social circle due to death, elderly people are increasingly susceptible to depression caused by loneliness and isolation. However, perhaps due to generational differences, older people may be less willing to discuss their emotions or dismiss feelings of depression as simply a natural part of the aging process. Make sure that you regularly spend time with your relative to ease any feelings of loneliness, and encourage them to discuss their feelings with the reassurance that it is OK to do so.
7. Create a Life Story
A ‘Life Story’ records a person’s biography through photographs, favorite songs, and other memorabilia. It is a particularly useful tool if the person is living with dementia, as it can be used as a way to connect and communicate with someone experiencing severe memory and cognitive loss, building a record of who the person is as an individual outside of their illness.
As well as photographs, look to incorporate all the senses into a Life Story. For instance, why not track down a bottle of their favorite perfume from when they were a teenager? Or create a playlist of their favorite songs attached to particular memories? You could even get the whole family involved, such as getting the grandkids to interview their grandparents about their life. Not only is creating a Life Story for your beloved relative is a great way of bonding and finding out more about their life, you will also have a long-lasting record to cherish and inspire memories far into the future.