How to Make Life Easier for Elderly Loved Ones
Make Life Easier for Elderly Loved Ones –As people age, daily habits that were once simple tasks — running errands, feeding themselves, socializing with friends — can suddenly become quite challenging. It can be really hard to watch your loved one struggle to cope with their new limitations. However, you don’t just have to sit there. There are practical things you can do to make things easier for your loved one. Here are seven ideas to get you started:
Talk With Them About Their Wants And Needs.
Don’t just assume that you know what your elderly loved one needs — ask them about it! It can be awkward to talk about aging, but both of you will benefit from having an open conversation about the changes that are happening for your loved one and your relationship. You may also find it beneficial to do some research beforehand about the different needs of elderly people, so you can be prepared to ask intelligent questions. Just make sure that you’re letting your loved one drive the conversation instead of taking it over with your newfound knowledge. Not everything you read on the internet, however reputable, will apply to every single senior.
Encourage Physical Activity.
Exercise is one of the best ways to maintain physical function as you age. It also stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin, which can boost mood and help fight depression (more on that in a minute). However, not all exercises are a good idea for seniors. Due to more fragile joints, they should avoid higher impact workouts such as running. Instead, encourage them to pursue lower impact cardio such as swimming, cycling and yoga that will be easier on their body. They should also do some kind of strength training a couple of times a week to guard against age-related muscle and bone loss. Even if they’ve never really exercised before, starting now will still make a big difference in their physical and mental health down the line.
Don’t forget mental activity, either.
Yes, physical activity is good for your mental health, but it’s not the only thing that can benefit your brain. Doing exercises that are challenging mentally can help your loved one stay sharp and prevent certain kinds of cognitive decline. Anything that engages their brain is a good option: Sudoku, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, etc. Experiment around to find one that your loved one enjoys and then encourage them to pursue it (pro tip: these sorts of games make for a great birthday or holiday gift). Their new hobby won’t feel like brain work if they already enjoy it.
Support Social Connections.
Older adults often find it difficult to stay in touch with friends. Hearing and visual impairments may make it difficult to use text messages, phone calls, video calls and other important forms of social communication. They can also make it harder to drive a car or take public transportation to in-person social functions, which leaves many older adults isolated and alone at home. Do whatever you can to encourage your loved one to maintain social connections, whether that is offering to drive them to a book club meeting or showing them how to use FaceTime on their new smartphone. Keep in mind that technology that seems easy to you might be totally unfathomable to a member of an older generation.
Help Them Update Their Homes.
For the most part, modern homes aren’t designed for older adults to age in place. As a result, your elderly loved ones’ home could almost certainly use some updates to make it safer and more comfortable for seniors. Start by getting rid of possible hazards, such as loose electrical cords and rugs that could cause a fall. Then, look into updates that could make the home safer, such as installing grab bars in the shower and turning down the temperature on the water heater so it can’t cause burns. Most of these will be pretty easy DIY fixes, though a few (such as renovating the bathroom) may require outside help.
Give Them Thoughtful Gifts.
Looking for a present idea? Seek out carefully chosen gadgets specially designed for older adults with Alzheimer’s, arthritis and other common conditions. For instance, adaptive clothing such as duster house dresses and nightgowns for the elderly will make it easier for them to get dressed in the morning, even if they have mobility issues that make regular clothing difficult. Tile finders will help them locate common objects, such as keys, that they frequently misplace. You might have to hunt for some of these gadgets, as the elderly aren’t commonly marketed to, but they do exist and can make a big difference in seniors’ quality of life.
Watch Out For Signs Of Depression.
Unfortunately, depression can be hard to spot in seniors because many of the outward symptoms are already common side effects of aging. Many older adults start staying in more and giving up hobbies they were once passionate about due to physical health reasons, not mental health ones. However, changes that were initially made for other reasons can lead to worsening health later on, and many seniors experience loneliness, isolation and depression. Make sure that you’re checking in on your elderly loved ones regularly and watching for signs of depression. Certain items on this list, such as exercise and social time, can help with depression, but your loved one may also benefit from talk therapy and medication as well.
Use these seven ideas as a springboard to help your loved one adjust to this new phase of life. Not only will they be very grateful for your help, it will give you a great excuse to spend quality time together as well.