Most of us prefer to sleep in our own beds and eat the food we're used to. For reasons of comfort, security and peace of mind, staying at home, even when help is needed, is often a senior's first choice. But in-home care, for a quick recovery or for the long-term, requires the support of caregivers and possibly some modification of the home to make it senior-friendly.
Caregivers are family, friends, and/or health care providers from an outside agency. Family and other informal caregivers provide 70% of all the help received by elderly citizens in need in New York State.
Tips and Links for Caregivers
Caregiving requires a generosity of spirit. But caregivers also need to take care of their own physical and emotional needs.
Caregiving support groups exist to help you cope. Call Eldersource at (585) 325-2800 and ask for a caregiver consultation to identify needs, get supportive counseling, and help coordinate a care plan.
- Visiting Nurse Service (VNS) at (585) 787-2233 is URMC's first choice for in-home services, including companionship, Meals on Wheels, advanced practice nurses, rehabilitation, housekeeping, hospice care and more.
- The New York State Office for the Aging has lots of good advice for caregivers including tips on how to hire a caregiver for in-home care.
- Take your cue from modern senior housing projects and install senior-friendly devices. Grab bars for balance and higher toilet seats for comfort are two examples. Special eating devices, medication trays, supplies for incontinence, and other handy items can be found in your pharmacy and medical supply stores.
- Adult day care provides respite for caregivers and a welcome change of scene for seniors. Adult day care programs follow either a social model or medical model. Social programs may focus on providing companionship or on hobbies or other special interests, while medical programs may focus on providing therapies such as dialysis, ventilation, and rehabilitation.
Would You Be a Good Caregiver?
Because of the normal aging process, many seniors have more difficulty doing simple tasks they once took for granted. If you're not sure if you'd be a good caregiver, think about the seven critical areas where seniors may need help, and then honestly consider if you can provide necessary help and support.
- Bathing and dressing
- Preparing healthy meals
- Getting in and out of bed and walking
- Taking and tracking use of medications
- Transportation for doctor appointments and social visits
Making a Senior Friendly Home—Safety Checks
Safety begins at home. The Administration on Aging estimates that 60% of older people live in homes that are more than 20 years old and need repair. Even simple things, like a sleeping pet or a slippery rug, could spell disaster for seniors. Here are ideas and areas to consider when you do a thorough safety survey of the senior's home.
Many seniors are at risk because they take multiple medications recommended by different doctors, plus over-the-counter brands. In-home caregivers should survey all medicines and then ask the senior's primary care physician about possible conflicts. List all medicines, dosages, and schedules for taking the medicines. Get rid of all outdated medicines. Request non-child proof tops if no children are in the home.
In addition to the general emergency number, 911, post important telephone numbers in large print on or near the telephone. If money is not a problem, install other telephones in other parts of the home.
Put night lights in bedrooms, bathrooms, hallways, and other areas. Tack down or apply adhesive materials to the backs of rugs. Non-skid flooring is best. Install handrails on stairways. Avoid all icy pavements and steps. Install ramps and handrails for easier access.
If the senior is forgetful, remove all controls from the stove and electrical appliances when they are not in use. Replace heavy pots and pans with lighter weight ones. Install a microwave to simplify meal preparation. Put frequently used items within easy reach.
Grab bars and elevated toilet seats make good safety sense. Non-slip bath mats should be in tubs and showers. Hot water temperature should be set no higher than 120 degrees. An electrician can install a device to prevent electrical shock from small appliances.