If you are caring for your parents or in-laws, perhaps you have recently felt the added stress of the precautions and responsibilities such a task brings to your daily life. You may already be performing a nearly full-time home care job without pay or benefits — in addition to the job, you may have held before becoming an unpaid caregiver.
The good news is that there are a few handy tricks and tips to help make your home safer and easier to get around for the elderly in your care. Before we dig into these tips, let’s get some perspective on the status of American caregivers today.
Caregiving Statistics from Last Year (2020)
The number of unpaid caregivers grew annually before the COVID pandemic but has seen substantial growth over 2020. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), the number of caregivers who provide unpaid care to at least one older adult went from 43 million in 2015 to 53 million in 2020. That roughly 20% increase over five years has had a profound effect on the mental and physical health of caregivers
Here are some more statistics provided by the National Alliance for Caregiving:
- 24% of caregivers are providing care for more than one person
- 61% of caregivers are employed full-time
- Self-reported mental and physical strain went up to 21% in 2020 from 17% in 2015
How to Make Your Home Safer, Happier, and Healthier for the Elderly in Your Care
Wall Suction Grips
Wall suction grips are portable handles that adhere to most surfaces through two suction cups at either end of the grip’s handle. They are useful to help give your loved ones added support when getting upstairs with corners or using the bathroom. The suction cups are generally high quality and are designed to support the weight of a person. They can be attached in areas where an extra grip would be helpful. Think even beyond the stairs or the bathroom. These are portable and can be moved with ease. They can help the elderly get into and out of cars, in and out of bed, or be used in other areas where a fall is more likely.
Incontinence is a common issue for the elderly. Accidents happen even with the best of intentions. That’s why having the option to use a commode when the bathroom is too far away is essential. It helps them because they don’t need to rush to the toilet and risk hurting themselves, and it saves you a mess if they attempt and do not succeed. Keep a portable commode in their bedroom, especially if they have a history of incontinence. Additionally, keeping one on hand for them wherever they may be spending their time during the day is also a good idea.
Video Surveillance System
Smart home devices make it easier to monitor your house even when you are not present. Having a surveillance system in place that you can access live with your smartphone affords you peace of mind when you need to run out, and no one else is home. There are other ways you can connect smart devices in your home to your smartphone. You can control locks, let visitors in and change HVAC settings all at a distance. Knowing you can monitor your home and its precious occupants while you run to the pharmacy or the grocery store is a great stress reliever.
You may want to consider installing a chair climber or automatic lift if you have a house with stairs. However, not having one could result in a preventable tragedy. Your parents may be uncomfortable with the idea at first — especially if they are still mobile. Talk with your loved one about declining mobility and the risks associated with falling. If they are still hesitant, you could try bargaining with them about using it only at night or when tired or using the stairs alone.
Gadgets and Devices to Aid In the Care of Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients
Caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia presents its own unique blend of emotional and physical challenges. Patients who tend to wander when left to their own devices can harm themselves and get lost. Luckily for caregivers, there are a number of ways to help mitigate the risks of a wandering parent.
Though it may sound extreme at first, having a GPS tracker on a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia can quite literally be the difference between life and death. If they manage to get out of the house and get lost, the chances of them harming themselves or causing — let’s say, a traffic accident — increases the longer they are gone. Being able to pinpoint their location and get to them as soon as possible is of crucial importance.
Special Doors and Special Locks
You can buy an assortment of special doors and locks that have been designed to either lock on the outside, have a timed lock, or otherwise be triggered to lock. While it may be uncomfortable to lock your parents away at night, truly, it is in their best interest if they have Alzheimer’s or dementia and tend to wander.
You Can Make the Role of Caregiver Less Stressful (and the role of being cared for less demeaning)
It is possible to reach a healthy work/life/caregiving balance. With a little bit of preparation, time, and investment, you can make the role of caregiver an easier one to endure.
About the author
This is article is provided by Jennifer Bell who is a freelance writer, blogger, and homecare advisor operating out of Southern New Jersey. She works for Illuminated Hearts, a trusted homecare service in Philadelphia.