Taking Care of Older Adults: Top 5 Caregiving Considerations to Make
The National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP estimate that more than 53 million Americans are family caregivers: People of all ages who provide care, support, and assistance for a loved one. This number is almost certainly a low estimate and is sure to increase as more Baby Boomers age and require help to achieve their health, wellness, and everyday living goals.
Family caregivers do an incredible amount of work to ensure that aging loved ones are safe, secure, and healthy. But what does taking care of an aging loved one in your home really look like? If you’re new to the role of family caregiver, it’s important to understand the realities of caregiving and know when to consider senior living for the benefit of yourself and your loved one.
Daily Needs for Elder Care: Top 5 Things to Consider
While not all older adults will need all of these forms of assistance, it’s important to plan ahead for changing needs. Don’t forget to consider your own health and well-being in this equation, too—be honest and compassionate toward yourself as you determine whether you can be an effective caregiver or if you need to consider senior living options.
Transportation & Mobility
Older adults face mobility challenges for numerous reasons. As people age, their muscle strength can decrease by as much as 50%. Combined with the natural deterioration of neurons that help with motor functions, this loss of muscle can make it hard for older people to drive, walk, use stairs, and more.
Remaining as mobile as possible is critical for people’s overall health, well-being, and sense of confidence, which means caregivers may need to help elders:
- Get in and out of beds, chairs, cars, etc.
- Use walking aids or get around in a wheelchair
- Safely go up or down stairs
- Drive to doctor’s appointments & social engagements
- Make home modifications for safety, such as widening doors, installing grab bars and handrails, removing trip hazards, decluttering, improving lighting, and maintaining flooring
Meal Preparation & Meal Planning
Did you know that our nutrition needs change as we get older? A healthy diet is important at all stages of life, but for people over 55, getting the right balance of calories, nutrients, and vitamins can help prevent and manage chronic conditions, support muscle health and mobility, and much more.
Of course, older adults face unique barriers to getting the nutrients they need. Diminished taste and smell senses can make food seem less appealing, and conditions like dementia can make chewing and swallowing difficult. Caregivers are a crucial part of supporting nutritional needs and may need to:
- Make weekly meal plans
- Cook meals
- Go grocery shopping
- Find creative ways to encourage eating and drinking enough water
- Supervise meals to ensure safe and comfortable eating routines
- Consult with a loved one’s physicians to understand their nutritional needs and avoid foods that have negative interactions with medications, health conditions, etc.
Housekeeping & Home Maintenance
Housekeeping is never easy, but it can be particularly challenging for older adults. If you’re a family caregiver, you may be called upon to help your loved one with anything from laundry to lawn care.
When considering your ability to provide care for a loved one, make sure to factor in household help, such as:
- Kitchen cleaning (washing dishes, cleaning countertops, taking out the trash)
- Bathroom cleaning (cleaning tubs, showers, sinks, and toilets)
- Vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, window cleaning, etc.
- General home maintenance (replacing air filters, appliance upkeep, etc.)
Personal Care: Bathing, Dressing, Continence Care, & More
Personal hygiene is one of the most emotionally charged caregiving tasks. Sometimes, older adults feel embarrassed or ashamed when a family member has to help them with things like bathing, dressing, grooming, and especially toileting. Without the right approach, these interactions can be particularly taxing to both parties.
Maintaining a person’s dignity while helping them with personal care tasks should be a top priority. Personal care tasks may include helping a person:
- Dress and undress
- Wash and brush their hair
- Use and clean continence aids
- Maintain a healthy skincare routine
- Keep up with oral hygiene (brushing teeth, etc.)
Health & Well-Being: Medication Management & More
If your loved one requires skilled nursing care, it’s always best to have a professionally trained caregiver administer it. Still, family caregivers may need to help their loved ones organize their medications and communicate with their doctor to ensure that everyone fully understands their care plan.
If you are going to be a family caregiver, you may be an integral part of helping your loved one navigate the healthcare landscape, from attending doctor’s visits with them to encouraging healthy behaviors at home like exercise. This extends to their mental health as well, making sure that they have everything they need to stay connected to a social network, participate in activities that bring them joy, and remain engaged with life’s meaningful moments.
Understanding the Realities of Caregiving
The choice of whether to take care of an aging loved one at home or consider senior living is difficult. If you are newly taking on the role of family caregiver, or if you’ve been handling this responsibility for a while and are feeling burned out, being realistic about your own abilities—and your loved one’s care needs—is critical.
Depending on the level of assistance they need, caring for an older person can be a full-time job. And if you’re stretched too thin—emotionally, physically, or financially—you won’t be able to provide the best possible care. While it may be hard to think about at first, in many cases, senior living communities are the best option for everyone involved.
Take some time to think about your situation as critically as you can.
- Does your loved one have needs that you are unqualified or struggle to fulfill?
- Are you confident that their environment is safe, supportive, and connected?
- Is your loved one not just surviving but thriving?
- How much money do you spend taking care of your loved one at home? Include expenses like additional utility bills, extra groceries, medical needs, accessibility devices, transportation-related costs, home modifications, and more.
- Is caregiving having a negative impact on your other responsibilities (work, child-rearing, etc.)?
Get Personalized Help Exploring Your Senior Living Options
If you have been providing unpaid care for a loved one or are preparing to take on this role, you may benefit from additional support. Senior living options can provide that support, and CarePatrol is here to help you find the perfect community.
We are a network of local senior care experts offering hands-on, concierge-style assistance to help you find the perfect assisted living, independent living, or memory care community for your loved one’s needs and your family’s budget. Best of all, we offer our services at no cost to you!
Choose CarePatrol: Local Senior Care Advisors
CarePatrol is more than just a senior placement or referral service. We personalize our recommendations to your loved one and stay with you throughout the entire process of researching, touring, and moving into the perfect senior living community. Each of our senior care advisors is a highly trained expert who has vetted the various communities throughout your area—and we’re ready to match you with the best possible option!