The elderly population is highly vulnerable to chronic health conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, six in 10 adults in the United States suffer from chronic diseases such as cardiovascular conditions, cancer, lung and kidney disease, and diabetes. Cumulatively, these illnesses take up a total of USD$ 3.2 trillion in healthcare spending.
More than being a health burden for seniors, reduced cognitive and physical capacities also take their toll on families and loved ones who are left to care for them.
Taking care of seniors is a tough job. But as a caregiver, it’s your responsibility to provide a positive experience despite these challenges. Here are some tips for making life less difficult for your seriously ill loved ones.
1. Do Your Homework
After receiving a diagnosis, ask your doctor about the symptoms and proper disease management. Seek guidance on how you can help your parents cope with the changes.
But don’t do this on your own. Ask your loved ones, including the patient, to get involved in the whole process. Uncertainties and confusion can often lead to frustration, negatively impacting mental health.
Getting your parents to understand their sickness allows them to adjust better. Moreover, well-informed patients are more likely to follow the treatment plan and take medications with less resistance.
2. Help Protect Their Assets
Scammers are increasingly targeting seniors because of their vulnerability. Individuals can easily convince the elderly to provide their financial and personal information with reduced mental capacity. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, elder fraud is a serious problem, resulting in an annual economic loss of USD$3 billion.
These scams make senior living harder than it already is. Make sure to keep tabs on the situation by teaching your elderly patient to recognize various types of scams. Remind them not to share personal details with anyone and to be more prudent in talking to strangers online and in person.
3. Keep Your Home Secure
Taking care of seniors isn’t too different from having children. As they’re less agile and may suffer from low vision, mature adults are highly prone to getting injured in accidents. Certain chronic diseases can increase the risks.
Ensure an elderly family member’s safety by installing lights in all places and rails that they can hold on to while walking or using the bathroom. Switch to non-slip flooring and avoid glass fixtures. Keep hazardous chemicals away from the elderly with eye problems, as they may mistake them for something else.
In addition, be prepared and keep a complete survival set with your parents’ medications and a first aid kit in case of emergencies. Craft an evacuation plan and keep all family members informed about this so they’ll know what to do in disasters and other types of crises, including lockdowns.
4. Keep Them Active
Being physically active provides a host of health benefits, which is true even for people suffering from most chronic diseases.
Regular exercise can help improve the immune system and may help prevent illnesses from getting worse. It can also generate ‘feel-good’ hormones that do wonders for mental health.
As such, taking care of seniors entails physical exercises that aim to improve overall well-being. Even seniors with reduced mobility can perform simple activities, including stretching. Consider doing exercises with your loved one during your bonding moments.
5. Maintain A Healthy Diet
Poor nutrition can exacerbate chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes. It can also lower the immune system, which isn’t ideal for seniors battling severe illnesses.
Seniors are often on a restricted diet to keep themselves healthy. If medications and other treatments, for instance, chemotherapy, cause them to lose their appetite, seek help from a nutritionist and discuss how to keep them nourished.
6. Participate In A Support Group
No matter how strong you think you are, taking care of seniors will take too much of your time and energy. To continue taking care of your sick and aging loved one, seek support from family members, friends, and relatives. Don’t feel guilty if you feel too tired and need to take a break.
Reach out to support groups and individuals suffering from or who have gone through the same situation. These people can help you prepare for this life-changing event and provide you with valuable tips on coping.
Having an elderly patient suffering from a chronic disease can be challenging. Be prepared and seek the help of professionals and family members so you may still be able to provide the best experience for your loved one.
In cases where a senior’s health deteriorates and no one in the family is medically qualified to provide the best care, discuss with your parent whether home care services or senior assisted living might be a better option.