Taking care of an elderly person is a rewarding experience. It’s also a tough one. Maybe you’ve decided to start doing some volunteer work at an elderly care facility. Perhaps you’ve made the decision to move in with an elderly loved one, or to move them into your own home. However you’ve come to this circumstance, you’re in for a challenge.
If you’re going to be spending time with elderly, there are a few things you should keep in mind. There are plenty of benefits to both you and the person for whom you’re caring. There are also some complications and caveats you need to keep in mind.
If you are pleasant company, they’ll be infinitely grateful
The first thing that you should keep in mind is that the elderly are usually portrayed unfairly. This is aimed more at those who are going to a care facility. If you already know the elderly person, then you’re already familiar with their behavior! But for someone who has volunteered for elderly care, the days leading up to it can be pretty anxiety-inducing.
There is an unfair stereotype going around that older folk are all ill-tempered and don’t like the young. The fact is that the elderly are often very grateful towards their younger caregivers. It’s not just about having the helping hand with health and chores. The social aspect and the display of altruism itself are things for which they’re very grateful. The sad truth is that as you get older, feelings of loneliness can increase. Days tend to blur into each other more. Having someone there to interact with puts a smile on their face.
Some people can get a bit flustered when being social with an elderly person, though. If their sense of hearing has diminished or their mental faculties aren’t as sharp as they used to be, there may be some awkward barriers to overcome. But this shouldn’t cause you to feel the need to baby-talk to them. Remember to be warm and empathetic, being social and friendly without sounding patronizing. A well-meaning but patronizing attitude is something the elderly worry about when they’re being cared for, so take steps to avoid it!
You need to make sure their health is protected
As you are no doubt aware, an elderly person is much more likely to have health problems than you. They’re also at more risk of injuring themselves. Whether you’re working at a facility or at home, getting informed on correct senior care processes will work to your advantage. Consider taking a course in elderly care to boost your knowledge and confidence in this area. While you don’t need any special qualifications to begin working with the elderly, there may be a few things it would be good to have under your belt.
It’s extremely important that you know what to do in an emergency. One thing to always be wary of is the risk of falling. As you get older, many of your mobility functions begin to decline. Coordination, motor skills, eyesight and muscle strength all weaken. This means that falls are more likely to occur. What’s worse is that the potential effects of that fall will be worse than with a younger person. If an elderly person has fallen, don’t try to get them up right away. It’s recommended that you keep them calm, try to assess damage, and call for someone. If you’re at a facility, there may be medical assistance ready right away. If you’re at home, you may need to call for an ambulance.
If you’re volunteering at an elderly care home, things are much simpler. All the safety facilities you need are right there. But what about taking care of an elderly person at home? This is a much more complex and serious issue. It is also becoming much more common; the aging baby boomers of today are much more likely to want to stay at home or with a family member. Is your home suited to housing an elderly person? The entrance to the house needs to be step-free, completely free of obstacles. The thresholds between rooms need to be similarly free. Anti-slip facilities and grab bars need to be installed in bathrooms and showers.
You shouldn’t forget to take care of yourself
However you do it, taking care of the elderly can be quite pressing. It could be because of financial or time-related burdens. It could also trigger worrying thoughts about your own future of potentially similar situations. If you’re not taking care of yourself properly, you will find yourself stressed and burned-out. At that stage, you could be doing more harm than help. One of the secrets to taking care of an elderly loved one at home, for example, is a calm and happy house.
If you find yourself becoming overburdened, you should take a holiday. If you’re working at a care facility, you should request some time off. If you’re volunteering, see if someone you know would be able to volunteer in your place temporarily. The facility will appreciate this a lot. If you’re looking after someone from home, you may want to discuss the possibility of a move to a care home. It’s important to remember that this doesn’t have to be a permanent thing. You can look into permanent or what is called ‘respite care’. Check out Amana Living for more details.
Finances need to be considered
Taking an extra family member into your home can be expensive. This is true especially with the potential need to modify your home as described above. In these scenarios, it’s possible that the elderly family member themselves will be able to help. What do you know about their finances? You need this information as soon as possible. You should also find out about their insurance plans. Some of the costs here may be covered by their insurance.
Of course, if you’re working at an elderly care facility then it’s less of a worry. This will depend on the nature of your employment, however. Volunteering won’t result in any monetary gain for you, which may put a strain on you long-term. Still, this is countered by the invaluable experience you’re getting, both professionally and personally.