Dear Francy; My parents are in their early nineties and still live in their family home. The house is small and easy for them to keep up with hired help for fix-ups and me for assistance. But, they are now doing less and less…their days are spent watching TV and sleeping. I know that they will face their end times but I want them to stay in their home as long as possible. What can I do to keep them safe and yet home, at such an advanced age?
It’s all about quality of their days now…so keeping them moving and thinking — it’s the key
- Do they move around during the day? Keeping their legs working and their balance in place is really a hot point.Make sure they move around to go to the bathroom…make them walk around the house or up and down the hall twice each time they go to the bathroom. Their commode goes over the toilet during the day to help them up and down on the toilet seat. Then at night move the commode into their bedroom for ease of use when they are trying not to fall at night. NO Should I ?….this is a must and do not let the senior make decisions that effect their balance and possible fall at nite!
- Do they eat on trays by the TV all day long? That will keep them from knowing what they are eating and allow them to snack without thought. Have them eat at the kitchen or dining room table not in front of the TV on trays. This is really important to keep their food intake under control. Intake of food in advanced age is very hard. The palate does not taste food and the stomach is not hungry for food. So making food spiced well and served attractively is important. They will concentrate on their eating, chewing and swallowing safely. They will eat a full meal, not piece. They will be able to see each other and be forced to talk to each other to encourage their interaction. If there is a care giver there, ask them to sit and visit with them while they eat. To be there in case of swallowing problems.
- Do they remember what day it is and talk about things happening in the present? Their minds have to keep working not go on vacation. Keep a wall calendar and put all their appointments on it and add in family events. Grand children’s birthdays that need cards sent or calls to be made – holidays coming up in large print – reminders of voting days and library return days. Keep them in the present as much as you can so they do not simply stop thinking. Order books from the library, they have special “homebound” programs that will send out a few books for them to read and return in a pouch via the mail. FREE… Talk about TV programs that are coming up that have interest for them. PBS has history series that are so well done, they have Masterpiece Mystery and Theater and art programs. These are quality shows that can be easily understood and enjoyed.
- Are the newspapers piling up around the house and look like they are not being read? You need to keep them thinking and reading. Change the paper to just the weekends. It means less paper to throw away and still is a weekly review of local events. Add a Newsweek or Time subscription so they get the news in detail. If they have trouble listening to news each night, this will do a full in-depth report of major events so they keep up on life around them. Remember those magazines need to be dropped off at the library. Most libraries have a magazine exchange for those that can not afford them. It’s a kind way to stay gifting all through the Sr’s life.
- Is their surroundings looking dull and like grandma’s house? Everyone enjoys a clean and pretty home especially when they spend all their time in their home. Make a few changes…Add some new throw pillows for color, change the grand children photos and update their selection. Get the family photos on an electronic photo frame that will be changing throughout the day. Ask the family to help you do a weekend of painting and get the kitchen, and living area updated with new paint, clean windows and curtains. It will lift spirits and have to be done when they choose to leave the home and the house goes up for sale. So best done so they can enjoy it.
- Do they still have friends alive that they can connect with once a month? This is really hard- as you age- you lose your friend base.
If friends are few and far between now, have them go to a local senior center at least once a month for a card day, or craft day or an exercise class. Let them met some new folks to get their minds going on interaction again. A senior DayCare is around $14 a hour and you can find them in care facilities. Keeping their social skills alive means they will interact with their care givers and family much better, too!
- Do they have something to take care of or do you do everything for them? Everyone needs to have chores and responsibilities.
Add a pet to the house. Your local shelter will find an older dog or cat that are small and easier to care. This is an addition that will give them a worry. They will even complain at first…”Oh,NO we don’t want to worry about a pet” Well too bad; older pets need good homes and love..and so do they. This new pet will add a feeling of movement to the home, noise and something to worry over and do for all day long. It will give them a reason to get up and put them out to potty or feed them. It will allow them to pet and stroke the animal and get that tactual interaction that all people need to keep healthy. It could be a bird, it could be fish…but pets are important to older folks and not to be ignored as something to hard to handle.
- Do they keep clean? Is the home smelling clean? Many older people simply do less cleaning of their home and their own person. So schedule a bath lady once a week so they have a good supervised bath. Then make sure that the house gets aired out and have a good air cleaner. You can find ozone air filters that will push the air through the house and clean it out for you. Keeping clean is a foundation for a happier disposition. You will find almost all people who are depressed dress poorly and have less personal hygiene. So if you see this in your seniors disposition, take note and remember that depression can hit elders hard and it can be addressed and treated by their family doctor.
- Are they missing out by not hearing or seeing well? Do not think that someone older does not need to hear or see well.
The idea that older people do not need to hear or see well is nuts. If you are in your eighties and will live another 4-25 years you need to keep your ears and eyes working. So get them help. Ck ears for wax, get at least one hearing aid. Add TVEars (a great headset) that gives them personal hearing for the TV. This also allows the TV audio to be turned down so you do not hear the TV in every room. Check their eyes, get glasses and updated frames or add magnify sheets so they can see to read and to understand their medications and the TV schedule. Get them to remove their cataracts that will open the world to their eyes again. Keep them thinking that time is moving forward but they deserve to move with it, not get stuck.
- What if you live to 120? My mother never thought she would live to 100 years. She was shocked as the years moved forward and she kept living on after many physical challenges. So she would say; if I knew I would live this long I would have done more when I was eighty. You see no one thinks about this…they just think they will drop over any time after 80+ so they wait for it to happen. Doctors have answers to many problems that caused early death – now, even something simple like colds can be handled so they don’t turn into pneumonia. Heart attacks can be medicated and life extended. So stop the thinking that your elders will drop over any time now. Start thinking…” If I am going to live another five to ten years what do I need to do?” It does make a difference. Movement will be more important, eating will become something to be involved with and dressing and interactions with others will be fun again. Life can be very long and a quality life is a treasure. Keep thinking ahead as you care for elders. Mother would often say; “All these pills can’t I stop taking some?” I would then go over her pills and ask which one do you want to stop. The pill to help you not get a stroke?- the pills to make your stomach feel better, the pill to help you go to the bathroom eaiser…on and on. She then would say..well I suppose I better just keep taking them. She was right, medications, exercise, food, personal care, friendship, family and social interaction make life worth living. So keep it up, keep them moving and grooving, no excuses…before you know it will be five years down the road and they will still be in their home and happy!
I thank you for all you are doing..francy Francy with Missy Come and enjoy more info at www.SeniorCareWithSpirit.com