By Anne Franklin, Senior Safety Advisor
Last month, we talked about steps adult children can take to help their parents remain in their homes as long and as safely as possible. We focused on reducing fall risk, because falls can have serious, devastating effects on the elderly.
This month, we’ll talk about other things adult children can do to assist their parents in remaining independent, in their own homes. Our discussion will focus on four major areas: medication, nutrition, socialization, and purpose.
Prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and supplements play a major role in the older person’s health and daily routine. A 2002 Georgetown University study found that 87 percent of people age 65 to 79 take at least one medication daily; the average 65-year-old takes four. Older adults (65 years and older) are twice as likely as others to come to emergency departments for adverse drug events (over 177,000 emergency visits each year) and nearly seven times more likely to be hospitalized after an emergency visit, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
You can avoid this by helping your parents manage their medications. Talking about what they’re taking, why, and how they are to be taken. This is especially important following a hospitalization as the stress of a hospital stay and a new diagnosis can lead to confusion and uncertainty. After every doctor visit, discuss any new medications that have been prescribed and whether any old medications are to be discontinued.
Every month, go through their medications to ensure they have the refills they need. Discard any medications that have been discontinued (and take advantage of drug take-back days to ensure they are properly disposed of). Consider purchasing pill minders that allow them to set out their daily prescriptions by time of day (three or four slots per day). Some pharmacies offer this service free or for a nominal charge, which can be very helpful for those who have difficulty seeing, trouble with fine motor skills or issues with understanding medication regimens.
Good nutrition is medication, too. Poor nutrition can weaken the immune system, worsen chronic conditions and impede recovery from illness or injury. Sadly, malnutrition in the elderly is often under recognized and underdiagnosed. It can be a challenge for an older person, especially one living alone, to prepare nutritious meals two or three times daily. For those with chronic conditions, such as diabetes or heart failure, the challenge can become even greater.
Take your parent(s) grocery shopping and make sure the fridge and cabinets are stocked. Yogurt, low-fat milk, peanut butter, high-quality proteins, beans, vegetables … things they enjoy eating and are likely to consume. Consider spending an afternoon every couple of weeks with your parent fixing meals in advance and freezing them. That way, they can just heat it up and go. If you live far away or aren’t much of a cook yourself, consider signing them up for a program like Meals on Wheels.
Nutritional supplements, such as Ensure or Boost, may be in order. Talk with your parent’s physician first.
Getting older can be very isolating. Health problems often make it difficult for the elderly to get out and go like they once did. Seniors with COPD, MS, Parkinsons, arthritis and heart failure face special challenges, although getting out is often great medicine.
I will be the first to tell you there is no shame in using a cane, a rollator or power chair to get around. In fact, we have many clients whose lives have been completely changed by a scooter, powerchair and a vehicle lift!
Look for opportunities for the senior to get out and be active: the senior center, the Y, church. Consider taking mom or dad on vacation with you. Airlines are extremely accommodating to older travelers – just let them know you’ll need assistance. Once you get where you’re going, you may be able to rent a scooter or power chair to use. If you’re driving, be sure to call us about renting a power chair and lift. We also have scooters that can be disassembled into easy to manage pieces and placed in the trunk of a car. We will be happy to help. And you’ll create memories and experiences that will last for the rest of your life.
We all need purpose. Seniors are no different. While physical limitations may make it more difficult to do some of the things they once did, the world is a big place and there are plenty of opportunities to contribute. Volunteering at the local school or park. Knitting baby blankets for children in need. Becoming a foster grandparent. Researching your family’s history. Writing a memoir about their life and times. Political action. New hobbies. There is virtually no limit to what our seniors can do with a little encouragement and support. It’s up to us to give them the boost they once gave us!
In this article, we’ve addressed some of the ways adult children can help their aging parents live a fuller, happier life, safe in their own homes for as long as possible. Should you have any questions or need advice on helping your parents, give us a call at (606) 329-1344, stop by our showroom on Winchester Avenue in Ashland, or visit our website at tristatemobility.com.