Caring for elderly relatives isn’t always easy and I recently wrote about the challenges of caring for your elderly parents while they still live at home. Just recently this has become a little more important to us due to the fact that Mum has had rather a patchy year of it so far, health-wise.
My parents are in their late 70s and still fully mobile and I have to say that I would far prefer to look after them at home for as long as possible before considering residential care.
But I am increasingly aware that, for them to live at home in comfort and safety, we will eventually have to make some changes to their house.
It’s amazing what you have to think of when it comes to avoiding accidents – for example, my parents have had to swop to a cool wall toaster in case Mum touches it when she is unwell. (She suffers from Temporal Lobe Epilepsy).
Then there are things like installing a handrail alongside the steps which lead down to their house and another to help them to walk down their sloping drive which is treacherous in icy weather.
I’m sure many of you will identify with the difficult line we have to tread between offering advice and help and being seen to ‘take over’ or dent our elderly relatives’ pride.
It has taken Dad a while to be able to openly admit that having help sometimes is nice and he is much better at asking for help and sharing his worries with my sister Sarah and I.
But I find I often sound like I am nagging these days if I ask if they’ve had the heating on (the house is often like an igloo) or whether they are eating enough.
One of the things I am able to do is to invite them around to ours (we live literally a 10-minute walk away) for lunch to feed them up.
I think it is really important to maintain regular contact with your elderly relatives. I find it heartbreaking when I read of old people who are in residential care yet receive no visitors. Their loneliness must be terrible.
|My lovely mum|
There are things we can do to help out – as long as we offer this help as tactfully as possible and gauge whether we are hurting feelings. It’s all about open and honest communication.
Here are some suggestions you could do if, like me, you’re in that delicate position of recognising that a bit more help is needed, whilst not wanting to tread on toes.
I am, however, in the lucky position of living close by and with both parents currently able to look after one another.
– invite them for meals
– batch cook at home (soups, stews, pasta dishes) and pop a few portions round in airtight containers to put in their freezer
– buy larger amounts of fruit and veg and let them have the surplus (very easy if you are a member of a cash and carry, such as Costco)
– offer to drive them to town once a week or to their supermarket to do the weekly shop
– carry out simple gardening tasks (hedge trimming, weeding, planting some perennials or herbs in pots).
– arrange for the laundering of big items such as blankets or duvets or take items to the dry cleaners
– wash the windows
– clean the house, even if it’s just whizzing around with a vacuum.
– do their ironing
This is all basic stuff and I’m sure you will have many ideas of your own. The tricky part might be getting your elderly relatives to agree to let you help out with some of these!
If you live far away from your parents or elderly relatives, you may be relying on a paid carer or assistance from Social Services and your hands may well be tied in terms of what you can do to help – in which case an honest conversation with your elderly relatives might be the best way to see whether they are coping.
There is always something that can be done to help with the added bonus that knowing our elderly relatives are being looked after and their stress minimised makes both their and our lives, just that little bit less stressful.
After all, I don’t know about you but caring for elderly relatives at home if you can seems to be far preferable to residential care.