I was recently asked by Margie (site editor) to write an article giving my ideas on caring for an elderly family member. I've know Margie and her family, including her mother, Peg, for a few years. First, I want to tell you a little about myself. I found the career I wanted to do a little later in life. I applied for a job at a nursing home, and became a nursing assistant, close to where I lived. I worked there for 9 years. My next job was also in a nursing home where I worked 25 years in the Therapeutic Recreation Department. After I retired, I still wanted to continue working, part-time, so I went to work at Home Instead Senior Care as a Caregiver. At this time, I want to say I am not a professional and my advice should be taken as my opinion. I am someone who enjoys helping and spending time with our older generation.
My mother, my husband's aunt and now his mother have experienced losses, both physically and mentally, as they have grown older. These losses can be very upsetting and challenging, especially when, in the early years, you know you "are not the person you were before." This can be an emotional rollercoaster for you, the whole family and the loved one who you are caring for and helping.
Some things I have learned and observations I have seen over the years, I will share with you, in this posting. For an elder who is having physical problems, some things to check on are, do they have throw rugs in their home? These rugs can be a fall risk and should be removed. Try limiting the use of stairs, if possible. Chairs that have arms on the side are helpful for standing up from a sitting position. If your loved one uses a walker, they should stand up using the chair arms, then hold onto the walker, for support. Also, if they are able, make sure their feet are flat on the floor a small distance apart, and they bend their knees to stand up. If your loved one has difficulty when going to the bathroom, to get on and off the toilet, it would be a good idea to purchase a raised toilet seat with arms on the sides.
For an elder who is declining mentally, a few ideas for stimulating the brain that I have used with family and my previous jobs are the following:
- Word Games - You can make up a small sentence and see how many words can be made using the letters in the sentence. Or just pick a word, such as GARDEN and see how many words can be made from this one word. Peg still enjoys doing this or spending time alone with a Word Search book.
- Coloring - Either in an adult coloring book or even a child's coloring book. Fun, especially if you also color with them. This is still another one of Peg's favorite hobbies.
- Familiar Games - Play games the elder is familiar with such as Parcheesi, Yahtzee or card games.
- Bake - Ask if they'd like to bake a cake - they can read the recipe, help with the measurements and enjoy a special treat!
- Paint - They could paint a bird house or just a piece of wood. They could hammer nails in the wood, which would give them mental and physical stimulation.
These are just a few ideas and suggestions to help you with the care of a loved one. You may have some of your own ideas, which are great. Just remember, stay calm, talk slow and louder if your elder has a hearing problem. Taking care of a loved one can be challenging for you also. If you find you need a break, that you are becoming upset, irritated, anxious or emotionally drained, take a walk, ask someone to come to your home that you trust and go take a drive. Go to a store and do a little shopping or just grab something to drink and sit down and rest. It will help you and your loved one to continue with a loving, calm, meaningful family relationship!