No man or woman, regardless of his or her age, wants to consider that a day may come when they need to rely on loved ones to help them perform everyday activities. But every day tens of millions of people serve as unpaid caregivers for their aging friends or family members. A 2015 survey from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that approximately 34.2 million people had provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months.
Many unpaid caregivers are pulling double duty, caring for their aging parents while also raising families of their own. While there’s no guarantee that aging men and women will require care, caregivers figure to become more necessary as life expectancies increase. In fact, recent years have seen the senior population in the United States exceed 50 million for the first time in the country’s history, and figures from the U.S. Census Bureau suggest that figure will continue to rise until 2029. Men and women who are preparing to welcome an aging loved one into their homes may wonder how to make that transition go smoothly, especially if they have young children at home.The following are some tips that can help families prepare to welcome an aging friend or family member into their homes.
• Speak with your loved one’s physicians. Speak with an aging loved one’s physicians so you can get a complete picture of their physical and mental condition. This can give you an accurate depiction of how much care your loved one needs now and how much they might need in the future if their condition worsens.
• Discuss forthcoming changes as a family. Once you gain a full understanding of your loved one’s physical and mental condition and before this person moves into your home, discuss it with your family. Adding a new member to your household will affect everyone, so each member of the family, including young children, should be included when discussing how the family dynamic will change. Parents must recognize that even young children may be asked to make sacrifices to accommodate aging loved ones. Explain these sacrifices in advance and how important it is to make an aging loved one feel welcome when they move in.
• Discuss conditions with children. Children may recognize their grandparents or elderly loved ones have physical limitations, but they likely won’t understand conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Parents can ask a physician about how to explain cognitive decline to young children. Children may not recognize cognitive decline as readily as adults, so parents may need to discuss these conditions with their children periodically and/or if the conditions worsen.
Millions of people across the globe welcome aging loved ones into their homes when they can no longer care for themselves. Such caregiving changes family dynamics, and these changes should be discussed before and after a loved one moves in.
Feeling safe and secure at home is a priority for any homeowner. But safety is of particular concern for aging men and women who are at greater risk of being involved in accidents at home than younger men and women. Harvard Health Publishing says that accidents at home are among the leading causes of injury and death in the United States. The chances for fatalities increases as one ages, and by age 75 and older, men and women are almost four times as likely to die in a home accident as people a decade younger.
As people age, their balance, eyesight and general physical abilities can begin to diminish. Furthermore, a fall or incident that may only bruise a younger individual can cause more serious breaks or damage for seniors, resulting in potentially lengthy recovery times. The Home Care Assistance organization says that one million elderly people are admitted to the emergency room for injuries every year. People concerned about the safety of their homes or the homes of their aging loved ones can retrofit such properties to make them safer.
According to The Senior Social Club, which offers care and community services to seniors, falls are the most common accidents affecting seniors. One out of every three seniors aged 65 and older falls at least once a year. In addition to working with doctors to improve mobility and modify medications that may cause unsteadiness, changes around the home can help. Grab bars placed in bathrooms and high-traffic areas can help seniors get stay more stable when changing from sitting to standing positions. Potential tripping hazards should be assessed. Area rugs without nonskid backings, clutter on floors, extension cords that extend into walking areas, and uneven flooring pose tripping hazards. Anti-slip coatings can be added to floors to reduce the risk of tripping. Poorly lit staircases and entryways also can contribute to falls. Consider the installation of motion-activated lighting so that dim areas can be automatically brightened when necessary. A nightlight or LED lights placed near molding can help guide seniors to the bathroom during midnight visits.
Arthritis can impede seniors’ ability to turn on and off appliances, water faucets or handle certain kitchen tools. Kitchen and bathroom modifications can include the installation of ergonomic and user-friendly handles and spigots. Task lighting can make it easier to prepare meals, and appliances that automatically turn off after a certain period of time can be a safety feature for forgetful individuals. Reorganize kitchen cabinets to make commonly used items as accessible as possible.
Friends or family members can have greater control over seniors’ homes by installing smart home systems. This way they can remotely adjust thermostats, control lights, view cameras, engage locks or alarm systems, and much more without having to be at the home. This can seniors allow seniors to maintain their independence while offering peace of mind to their loved ones.
Certain home modifications can reduce seniors’ injury risk.