Currently there are more than 44 million people providing care for an aging loved one in the United States — nearly one in four households is involved in caring for a relative or friend aged 50 or older. It’s estimated that more than 80 million people in the U.S. will have two or more chronic conditions by the year 2020.
Serving as a caregiver for an aging loved one is no easy task. As our society continues to age in place, more and more Americans will find themselves in the demanding position of caring for an elderly parent or spouse. Proper preparation is key to being an effective caregiver while hopefully encountering less stress. Here are a few ideas to help make your caregiving experience as seamless as possible – while still having some fun!
Keep Moving: Although your aging loved one might not be in the physical shape that he or she once was, regular exercise is still a vital component of maintaining peak physical and mental fitness. Physical benefits of exercise can include weight loss, reduced impact of illness, increased flexibility, mobility and balance. Regular exercise also can improve mental health by increasing self-confidence and improving sleep. Additionally, regular exercise is often linked to preventing memory loss and potentially slowing down the effects of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Cycling, yoga or Pilates are just a few of the ways that mature adults can help maintain healthy exercise routines.
Outsource the Errands: Going to the store can be a major task – and very time consuming – for seniors and their caregivers. But, we all know that one of the best ways to ensure good health is by eating as much fresh (and unprocessed) food as possible. Restaurants tend to add more fats and sugars. My advice is to explore grocery delivery services such a Fresh Direct, and if you’re searching for household items a great online resource is Soap.com. The end cost is usually not exorbitant when considering your time and gas expenses. It’s always handy to plan ahead.
Reduce the Confusion: One problem that caregivers routinely run into is managing their loved ones’ medication schedules. Mature adults often find themselves in the hospital after forgetting to take or misusing a prescription. In fact, studies show that 1 in 10 senior hospital visits result from medication errors. Utilizing a system to help keep up with your loved one’s prescription schedule can be an easy way to avoid a medication error. The solution can be as low tech as keeping a prescription journal to keep up with medication dosages and times. More tech-savvy solutions include the reminders through pharmacy mobile apps and home based medication dispensers.
Stay In Touch: A phone is not only an important tool for helping an aging loved one maintain his or her independence, it’s also a vital part of socialization and connectivity. Communicating with friends and family is critical in terms of engaging in an active lifestyle while simultaneously holding onto important relationships. For older adults, and their caregivers, products like the VTech CareLineTM home telephone and personal communication system enables them to live independent lifestyles and gives families confidence in their loved ones’ ability to easily stay connected.
Live a Little: Listening to music can reduce stress and promote happiness. Fortunately a lot of us grew up with music that our parents love, so it’s easier to find common ground. Online music services such as Spotify and Pandora are easy ways to access a wide range of choices in most genres. Movies also allow us to bond and escape into another world. Netflix offers unlimited viewing at a low subscription rate. The digital age allows us to have instant access to entertainment in the comfort of our homes. Taking the time to plan some programming for your loved one will be much appreciated.
Always Be Prepared: An open line of communication during the caregiver journey is an important tool. When caring for an aging person, there are plenty of important decisions that must be made. Making sure you include the person you’re caring for in conversations regarding business, medication, treatment and living arrangements is extremely important to ensure that your loved one is receiving everything he or she needs and wants. Communication also is key when it comes to being prepared. Talk to the person you are caring for and make sure all important documents, such as revocable living trusts, wills or medical directives, have been completed and find out where they are filed.