Even if you’re physically and mentally healthy, aging can take a toll on your ability to perform daily tasks. Weakening bones, thinning skin, decreasing muscle, and challenges with cognition can make simple activities feel complicated and complex.
If your parent or grandparent is nearing an age where it’s becoming harder to conduct daily tasks, it’s important to have an understanding of what exactly they need help with and how you can assist them.
Let’s take a look at the five most important elderly needs to consider, as well as different ways that you can improve their quality of life.
We know that aging can make it harder to complete daily tasks, but why exactly does that happen? There are two main factors: musculoskeletal impairment and cognitive impairment.
Musculoskeletal impairment can begin as early as age 30 or 40 and can continue through adulthood. This results in a loss of bone density and muscle tissue as necessary hormones to stimulate bone and muscle growth decline.
This can make it difficult for elderly individuals to complete tasks that require fairly simple actions, like moving boxes or walking up and down stairs. Additionally, it can increase the risk for serious injury from falls.
Cognitive impairment is the lessening of problem solving and memory skills that elderly individuals start to experience with age. As you age, certain parts of the brain shrink, especially those important for complex mental activities.
Additionally, blood flow to the brain can decrease, communication between nerve cells may slow, and inflammation in the brain may increase. All of these combined can result in memory loss and inability to complete many tasks.
Symptoms of cognitive deterioration include inability to multitask, decreases in one’s ability to pay attention, and memory problems.
Watching a loved one struggle to complete daily tasks can be just as frustrating for you as it is for them; but, you can help them out in many ways. Here are some key areas to pay close attention to.
Personal care is an important part of all of our lives, and when you get older, it becomes arguably more important. Although it can be awkward, you can significantly improve a loved one’s quality of life by helping them bathe, brush their teeth, and complete other hygienic routines.
You can help alleviate some of the burden by establishing a set routine that your elderly family member can stick to. By clearly laying out set times for certain activities, you increase the chance that they’ll remember to complete the activity on their own.
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that your loved one’s skin is being actively cared for, especially if it’s prone to injury or blemishes. Aging skin becomes injured more quickly and takes longer to heal, making it essential that you assist them if cuts or scrapes occur.
Don’t forget personal care in terms of their home’s cleanliness, too — a big part of taking care of yourself is having a clean, comfortable place to live. You can help by offering to take care of certain chores, buying and using tools and technologies that make home care easier (a Roomba is a great gift!), or even hiring a housekeeper to come tidy up once a week.
Have you ever heard your grandparent or parent say “I just can’t get around like I used to?”
As muscles and bones weaken, it can be difficult for elderly individuals to move freely around their home in ways that they were once able.
One of the toughest obstacles is stairs, as these require physical strength to navigate and can lead to disaster if they were to slip and fall. Consider investing in a chairlift to help them get from floor to floor safely and easily.
Walkers, walking canes, and wheelchairs can also be a helpful tool for unstable adults and can allow them to enjoy the outdoors without becoming fatigued too quickly. These can also minimize the risks of falls.
More visits to the doctor’s office can also come with age; but because of cognitive deterioration, it may no longer be safe for your loved one to transport themselves. You can assist them immensely by offering car rides to and from appointments, as well as other events and activities.
Offering to help them run errands, like grocery shopping can not only directly help them sustain independence, but also gives you an opportunity to spend some quality time with your loved one while getting out of the house.
Senior citizens often need prescriptions and supplements to stay healthy. But remembering to take medicine or go to doctor’s appointments can be a challenge all on its own.
You can help an elderly person with these tasks by taking them to important appointments or giving them a call to remind them of their visit to the doctor or dentist. Additionally, you can invest in a pill organizer or automatic pill dispenser to help them stay on top of all of the medications they need to take on a given day.
In some circumstances, elderly individuals may need help physically taking their medications. This is when it may be a good idea to coordinate care for them, such as looking into visiting nurses who can administer necessary medications.
Everyone, young or old, needs to maintain a healthy lifestyle to lead a long, fulfilling quality of life. As your loved one gets older, you may notice that their eating habits worsen and they become more sedentary.
You can help them by preparing healthy home cooked meals that can either be reheated or eaten fresh. Consider making a night out of it, cooking a delicious meal with your parents or grandparents!
As far as exercise, elderly individuals don’t need to be running marathons or lifting dumbbells. However, it’s very important that they are still remaining active.
Great examples of light activity include walking at a slow pace, vacuuming the house, or even just getting up to make a cup of coffee. You can recommend some light physical activities to your elderly family members to help them engage in physical exercise.
Helping your loved ones in any way is important, but you still have your own life, and the time and effort that goes into caring for an elderly parent or grandparent may become too much to handle.
If this is the case, it may be time to consider long-term residential care. This can be a tough conversation to have with the people who are affected, but care facilities can be extremely beneficial for elderly individuals in the long term.
First, gather everyone together who should have a say in this decision, such as your siblings or your loved one’s spouse. Then, explain to them and your loved one the emotional and mental toll that caregiving is having on you. Caregivers often put on a brave face, but your feelings are just as important as your loved one’s.
If you’re met with backlash, remain calm yet firm in your beliefs. Explain gently that you think this is the best option, and come equipped with reasons why.
If your family has heard horror stories about assisted living facilities, you can mention the Waltham Clinic to help soothe their fears.
The Waltham Clinic is a team of experts in geriatric care who partner with assisted living communities to help manage the common medical issues faced specifically by seniors before they escalate into more serious ones, such as: confusion, increased falls, recurring UTIs, pressure sores, mobility issues and more. It can help bring your family peace of mind when you can’t always be there for your loved ones.
As humans grow older, they often need extra help in their daily life. Namely, musculoskeletal impairment can make it more difficult to physically move around, while cognitive impairment can make it harder to solve problems or remember important information. All of this can make it hard to complete activities of daily living.
You can help elderly loved ones in five important facets of their life by offering help in five main areas:
Regardless, all of this care can take a mental toll on you as well. When it gets too much, assisted living facilities can be a safe and valid option.
If you need help navigating this difficult process, contact the Waltham Clinic today.