Elderly relatives are much-loved family members but it can be challenging to know how best to support them. It can be difficult as they get older to accept that their independence is less than it once was so you do need to tread carefully. Here are my 5 tips for looking after elderly relatives.
Treat them as the individuals they are
Your relative is a unique person with their own particular needs, interests and hopes. Bear this in mind when considering how to help them best. For example, when my elderly father needed extra help after my mum died, he insisted he would not move in with us unless there was independent space for him. This resulted in us moving house so he could have an annexe with his own kitchen, lounge, bedroom and bathroom.
Research equipment and technology that can help them
Sit down with your relative and really consider what their particular needs are from mobility aids to Telecare. You need to look at the place they are living. Often your elderly relative will hold out against moving from a house they have lived in for many years as it will be full of magical memories. An example is that you might need to install a curved stairlift in some residences.
Consult charities for carers
You may not see yourself as a carer or like the label. However, accept that you do care about your relative and know that there are so many local, regional and national charities that can help you. That might be with information, ideas, peer support or counselling. It is a sign of strength to reach out for support. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your relative as it means they will get what they need that much quicker.
Realise that your relative’s needs may change over time
My late Dad lived with us for only two years. When he first moved in, I was so caring to the point where he got frustrated and told me he had not moved in for me to look after him. He did his own cooking and laundry. One day, I realised that he could no longer work out how to work the washing machine. After that, I stepped in and did his laundry. When looking after elderly relatives, you have to be vigilant in the same way as you are with young children. Things change fast and you may have to react as quickly.
Enjoy the special moments
When you are looking after elderly relatives, you can make some very magical memories that will sustain you when they are gone. It’s important to enjoy the special moments perhaps when you have a hug or a really good giggle. Your elderly relative was probably there for you at some point in your life and it’s a privilege to be able to assist them in their later years.