It can be a difficult thing, watching someone you love getting older. We’ve already touched on what it can feel like to cope with your own ageing and the idea of getting older. But, what happens when it’s someone like a parent, grandparent or older relative?
In Ireland, the population has been getting older for decades. In 2016, 37.2% of the population was over the age of 45. It’s a pattern all over the world. In the U.S., there are currently 47 million seniors – the products of the “baby boomer” generation.
Seeing someone who has cared for you or someone you admire losing their ability to do the things they used to is a harsh reality. Your ageing loved one(s) may start to depend on you for help.
So, what can you do to help someone you love who is getting older while taking care of your family and yourself at the same time? Here are a few thoughts we have.
1. Understand the Situation at Hand
One of the best ways to develop a “strategy” for helping an ageing individual is to determine what their specific needs are. Sometimes, you might find yourself in an emergency situation where they have taken a fall and can’t move like they used to. Or, maybe they’ve developed an illness and need urgent and constant care.
Or, maybe they’re just going through the regular ageing process and can’t do things as effectively as they once did. In some cases, saying something as simple as “I’ll take you grocery shopping every week” or “I’ll pick up your NHS repeats” can mean a lot to someone who is struggling with ageing.
In other instances, you might need to consider assisted living or having that ageing individual come and stay with your family.
Assessing the situation can help you to make a plan and talk it over with your family before actually putting it into place. That allows everyone to be on the same page, so you’ll have the support you need and you don’t have to feel as though you have to help your ageing loved one on your own.
2. Make a List of Their Needs and How to Keep Them Safe
Chances are, no matter what the situation may be, your loved one has certain needs. Some of those needs are undoubtedly more urgent than others. You can really help them by making a list of those needs and prioritizing them according to what needs to get done first.
As you’re going over those needs, keep in mind that the safety and wellbeing of that individual should always come first. Anything that could potentially be a safety issue for them should be at the top of your list.
It could be anything from installing handles in their shower if they’re prone to falling, to making sure they take their medication each day to treat an illness.
3. Stay Organised
You might not have any doubts about taking on the care of someone you love. But, remember that it will add extra stress to your life, one way or another. When you still have a family to tend to, it’s easy to start to feel overwhelmed.
So, it’s important to stay as organised as possible. That means different things for different people. You might have to utilize a daily planner or a calendar you share with your spouse, siblings, or anyone else who is helping out.
Don’t be afraid to share some of your responsibilities with others. In keeping everyone in the know and staying organised, it’s less likely you’ll burn out.
4. Take Care of Yourself
Speaking of burning out, don’t forget to take care of yourself and make your emotional, mental, and physical health a priority.
Think of it this way – when you’re on an airplane and you’re listening to the safety rules before the flight takes off, what are you always told to do in case of an emergency if the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling? You’re supposed to put on your own mask before assisting others.
Simply put, you can’t pour from an empty cup. So, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by taking care of others. You’ll do a better job of caring for them if you take care of yourself, first.
Take a day off when you need it, or find things you enjoy doing that can help you to feel relaxed and recharged. This is just another reason it’s so important to ask for (and accept) help when you need it.
5. Let Your Loved One Have Their Independence
Just because someone is getting older doesn’t mean they’re ready to give up their independence or their lifestyle. In some cases, assisted living or in-home care might be necessary. But, you’re less likely to get resistance from that person if you still assure them that they can do some things on their own.
The more ways you can figure out to keep them safe while still allowing them to maintain a state of independence, the better. It will be easier for everyone and will give you peace of mind.
Chances are, you have more resources available than you might realize that can help out while still allowing your loved one to maintain their independence.
Do they have a housekeeper that comes once a week? Maybe that person can also do their laundry so your loved one doesn’t have to make an extra trip up and down the stairs.
Do they have trouble driving? Why not go to their house once a week and offer to take them to the store?
Little things like these can help your loved one to stay at home and maintain their current lifestyle while making small changes that can keep them safe.
Ageing is a part of life, and there are a lot of different factors that play into it. If someone you care about is getting older and you want to step in and help, be sure you’re as prepared as possible, and talk to them about the things they need beforehand.
You could be doing a great service to someone who is important to you, but you also need to make sure you’re looking after yourself and your family at the same time.
Got Something To Add?
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Until next time, thanks for reading.
Helen, Nial and Lewis.