As time has gone by, your aging parent may have lost some steam regarding taking care of his or her home, self-care, daily chores and the organization of outside help. This is an area where you can be a great help to your parent. But, depending on your parent's condition and ability to take care of him- or herself, be sure to offer your assistance carefully (think suggestions and recommendations rather than demands and ultimatums.) Here are our Top Seven Tips to help you stay on top of his or her in-home needs:
1) Set up the living space. As people age their living needs change. First and foremost, make sure the home is safe and secure. Eliminate hazards such as clutter and loose area rugs; replace lower wattage light bulbs with brighter ones to address your parent's likely vision deterioration; install handicap-accessible devices where necessary, in bathrooms, bedrooms and the kitchen; consider alarms and/or medical alert devices.
2) Discuss and plan daily hygiene. Be sure that your parent is addressing daily hygiene such as brushing teeth, washing hands, bathing and even laundry needs. When we age and our health deteriorates we are often more susceptible to colds, flu and other illnesses, which can lead to more serious conditions. Maintaining good hygiene practices will help reduce these risks.
3) Plan meals, food shopping and cooking. You know your parent. If one of her favorite activities is preparing and cooking meals, then don't discourage this activity, if at all possible. If he doesn't like to cook, then make sure he has healthy snacks and quick meal options available. If she is no longer able to drive to the grocery store, you may be able to find a local grocery delivery service, or inquire at your parent's favorite grocery store to find out if the store offers delivery. Depending on your budget, you also could arrange for a driver to take your parent food shopping or you could investigate meal delivery services.
4) Coordinate outside home workers. Go over with your parent the list of regular outside home workers, such as house cleaners, landscapers, pet walkers, newspaper delivery; and seasonal workers, such as snow shovelers and gutter cleaners. Make sure you have names, phone numbers and schedules for these services. In addition, it's helpful to have a list of ancillary service people such as electrician, plumber, painter and handyman — just in case.
5) Discuss daily activities, events and exercise. To avoid having your parent become depressed and unhealthy, be sure you have a regular schedule of activities, events and exercise in place. If your parent has recently retired and has not regularly participated in hobbies or fitness activities, find out what might be of interest and schedule some appointments with the local senior center, YMCA or health club. Always be sure to check with your parent's physician before recommending any new physical activities.
6) Evaluate the need for home health care. Depending upon your parent's current condition and expectation for rate of deterioration, home health care may be needed; so, you will want to be prepared to institute this as necessary. Don't wait until the last minute to investigate options for in-home care, assisted living and the possibility of nursing home admission.
7) Allow for your parent's independence. Especially if you live far away from your parent, resist the temptation to over-care if your parent remains able to care for him- or herself. Parents feel healthier and younger the longer they are able to continue to take care of the home, pets and daily activities. Do make sure your parent's vision is in good condition if he or she is continuing to drive; find out whether your parent has regular health evaluations; and discuss the importance of knowing what activities (such as climbing on ladders or chairs to dust the top shelf of the bookcase or to reach a can of soup in the kitchen cabinet) are still better left to someone else.