There are many reasons why independent living can be a better solution for your elderly relatives. One of them is the fact that the stress of relinquishing their independence and moving into a home can be enough to cause severe deterioration in their overall health. From a psychological perspective, elderly people are already prone to depression. Feelings of worthlessness and a sense of being “discarded” are almost sure to obtrude. Can they remain safe and healthy at home? Here’s how you can help.
Your Biggest Fear: a Medical Emergency When They’re Alone at Home
We’ve all heard horror stories about elderly people who fall and are unable to get up, or you might be worried about heart attacks, strokes, or other medical emergencies affecting loved ones when they are unable to call for help. The best medical alert systems offer a solution. It’s a bit like armed response that gets summoned when you press a panic button, except that this time, it’s emergency medics that get the alert. A wearable “panic button” means that they can summon assistance at any time of the day or night, even if they are unable to move.
There’s no denying that this will work wonders for both their peace of mind and your own. While they are otherwise able to live independently, a medical alert system may be all that’s required to help your elders stay safe. But what if you’re concerned about day-to-day needs? Let’s look at this next.
Assess Their Needs
For many elderly people, the mere thought of admitting that they need help is unthinkable. In addition the slow development of frailty may lead them to believe that they’re coping just fine, even when they aren’t. If you’re concerned about their ability to take care of themselves, take time to spend a couple of days with them.
Resist the temptation to jump right in and help with everything. Instead, watch how they cope with things like meal preparation, their medication schedules, and simple household chores. You’ll either find yourself reassured, or even more worried than you were before. But even if they don’t seem to be coping well, it’s not yet time to think of retirement homes. From hiring a daily or twice-weekly help for housework, to appointing full-time care workers, there are alternatives.
Home Care is Better Than “Homes”
Assisted living facilities and nursing homes may seem like the ultimate solution when considering support for frail family members, but the reality may be starkly different. Carers, nurses, and facility managers around the world have come forward with their concerns about quality of care in even the most costly homes for the elderly. Low carer to patient ratios are among the concerns they voice.
One staff member to every six to eight residents is considered to be a very good ratio, and it’s astonishingly rare for it to be adhered to. But even if you’re guaranteed this level of care, will it be enough? Once elders get to the point where they need help getting out of bed and doing simple things like showering and dressing, you can be sure that they won’t always be able to get assistance as quickly as they might like. If staff are busy with another resident when your loved one calls for help, they might end up being subjected to indignities like having to wait for help in soiled incontinence pads.
In formal care facilities, your loved ones also don’t have any say over who cares for them. From simple carelessness to actual abuse, your elder may not even be in a position to voice his or her complaints when you visit. Regretfully, horror stories about the treatment of those most in need of gentle and empathetic care are all-too-common. For the elders in question, the sense of helplessness can be soul-destroying.
Home Care Could be Cost-Effective Too
Considering the cost of a place in a basic care home, you might just find that it’s more economical to appoint around-the-clock at-home carers whose only responsibility will be to keep your elders comfortable and safe at home. With one carer serving an average of two elders, they are likely to get much more personal attention than they would in any aged-care facility plus they get the benefit of being able to live in their own homes.
With this comes a greater degree of independence, even if it’s only a matter of being able to make their own decisions about basics like mealtimes and entertainment. The psychological benefits of this will have physical health benefits too. Explore your options with their welfare in mind. Unless their medical needs are so intensive that a hospital or hospice-like setting become a necessity, there’s no place like home.