As the chorus of the 1970s Bill Withers song goes, “Lean on me when you’re not strong, and I’ll help you carry on.” But those words can take on a new meaning as your loved ones age. Sometimes, in spite best efforts, the effects of aging, such as reduced mental and physical function, strip away independence and require help from a family member or caregiver.
With the approach of September’s Healthy Aging Month
, this is an ideal time to evaluate the health status of your loved ones and potentially prepare for a future role as a caregiver. This can be overwhelming, but the following tips will make the transition easier, whether you or someone else will be looking after the person.
Tip #1 – View institutionalization as a last resort
Nursing home placement is rarely the first choice of the elderly, or their relatives, and for good reason. No matter how good the institution is, being placed in a nursing home can be traumatic, not to mention costly.
Finding workable alternative solutions that allow the aging person to stay in their home, or at least with those they know and love, is preferable. Keeping familiar surroundings and faces in the person’s daily life eliminates the stress that can occur when being moved to a nursing home.
Tip #2 – Find intermediate solutions involving close friends or family
Though this may be hard to find, a loved one living nearby may be able to extend the aging person’s independence by dropping in regularly to assist where it’s needed, whether that’s in the form of housekeeping, cooking, or personal care.
If you’re too busy to take on the extra work, consider hiring a younger relative, such as teenager or responsible adolescent in the family who could use a little extra spending money. It creates welcome social interaction and can be valuable job training for the person helping out.
Tip #3 – Seek professional intermediate solutions
If there is no one available among family and friends, there are many resources to assist professionally at home. For example:
- If the aging person is already in a retirement community, research the transitional services available on-site – staff resources who can check in on your relative and assist with certain tasks that have become too difficult for them.
- If living in their home, there are many in-home care provider services available, some of which are government subsidized. These services provide regular in-home visits to handle personal or household tasks.
Tip #4 – Look for electronic support
To help an aging elder to stay safe while maintaining a degree of independence, consider gadgets that can help. For example:
- A wearable alarm button, often referred to as a Senior Alert Device or a Medical Alert for Seniors, that is manually activated by the person by clicking a button on the device – often a bracelet or necklace. Most operate like cellular mobile devices, connecting the wearer to selected loved ones or to a company operator, who can determine if emergency personnel should be called.
- Wearables that monitor vital signs are part of a growing medical devices trend, including ECG monitors, glucose monitors, blood pressure, and pulse monitors. The wearable device tracks patients' movements and vitals, and then sends health measurements to caregivers or to their doctor.
- For a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, you can get assistance devices that are worn around the neck and that boldly state on them that the wearer has mental impairment. When activated, it connects to selected friends or relatives. These are valuable if the person has wandered away from home and is lost or confused.
Tip #5 – Save them money on their prescription medicines
Many of the elderly are on numerous medications, the cost of which can really add up! Help your elderly friend or relative sign up for a free FamilyWize Prescription
Savings Card. Now more than ever, they can benefit from discounts of 43%, on average. If you are responsible for picking up prescriptions for that person, you can use your own FamilyWize card to save on their behalf.
Download a free card online
today or request a card by calling 1-800-222-2818. You can also get the free FamilyWize app
, available for both Android at the Google Play Store
and Apple Devices (iPhone and iPad) at the App Store
It can be difficult to watch a loved one age, but it’s possible to help them do so with grace and dignity.