Thursday, 29 January 2015

Caring for an elderly parent - tips and advice

This is purely my thoughts and experiences. I'm no expert. Of course, each aged person has different needs and abilities.

My dad is 91 years, lives alone (semi-independently, is that a word?) at home. He must always use a walker (4 wheeled rollator), he has a heart condition and poor peripheral vision. I visit him daily (in the middle of the day for several hours). I prepare lunch and light dinner (Meals on Wheels was tried and later abandoned), clean house/maintenance/laundry, set out medication and chat with him.

Tips/Time savers

  • Get a lightweight, fold-up wheelchair for car trips.
  • Get a simple to operate microwave, prepare meals in advance, stored in fridge or freezer.
  • Keep everything in the same place daily (e.g. milk on easily accessible shelf, cereals in easy-to- use storage containers). Breakfast and light dinner are the meal my dad prepares independently.
  • Medication placed in same spot each day. I have written in large block letters on his place mat: "PILLS AFTER BREAKFAST". Nighttime pills in container on bedside table (with similar sign). Note, I abandoned the 7 day pill box dispenser after continued confusion over days and spillages.
  • Clock (get a large display digital wall clock that has the days of the week), centrally located.
  • Chair (a motorised tip-up model is essential)
  • Bed (waterproof mattress protector, hand grip bar that is anchored under mattress to aid getting in and out of bed)
  • Clothes I have a simple clothes rack with appropriate clothes laid out near dad's commode chair. Underwear ('pre-loaded' with adhesive incontinence pads) is stacked up on a stool next to chair. 
  • Commode chair (a Godsend) Next to bed. I abandoned the wee-bottle - too many accidents. I have a large sign on seat; SIT DOWN (nighttime No 1's more piss landed on the floor than in the bowl). Commode chair doubles as a sturdy chair for dressing during the day.
  • Lighting Motion sensor portable lights (set for after dark) are inexpensive and essential
  • Disposable absorbent pads that fit into underpants (trunks style is the best). Before I leave for the day, I check dad has a new one on.
  • Heating and Cooling A split-system ticks all the boxes for my dad's needs.
  • Ramp (temporary or permanent - I went with the latter)
  • Modified bathroom (rails, no step shower)
  • Photo Albums Memories are powerful and often more entertaining than watching TV by yourself. Dad's long term memory > his short term memory.
  • Phone My daily routine is I phone dad at 8:00 a.m. to remind him/check he has taken his pills and he rings me at 5 p.m. (TV news time for him). Get a cordless as well as fixed phone. 
  • Keysafe Install a key box with combination lock outside the house for quick entrance/emergencies. 
  • List I have a list by the front door that I mentally check off before I leave for the day (e.g. Pills on nightstand, breakfast pills, new underpants, meal in fridge, empty commode, etc.).
Side Benefits
I cycle the 8 km to my dad's house. Who needs a gym?
My hours away each day gives my spouse some breathing space. I reckon our relationship is better because of it.
Interaction with another person is good for my dad's mental health.

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