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Helping Seniors Remain Independent

By Kimberly FowlerDecember 7, 2017
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If you have older parents and grandparents, then you may be struggling to find the right balance between keeping them safe with the care they need while also preserving their independence.

But these two choices need not be in conflict; helping seniors remain both independent and safe is possible.

Helping Seniors Remain Independent

Here are some basic steps that you can start taking today to help the seniors you love stay independent and safe:

1. Make Modifications to Their Home

Many seniors choose to continue to live in the same home long after their needs have changed because their home has a huge sentimental value. A home is also a symbol of independence and all the person has worked to achieve throughout their life. However, the family home can also be full of hazards.

Some basic modifications that you can (and should) make before an elderly loved one hurts themselves at home, include:

  • Improving lighting in potentially hazardous or poorly lit areas
  • Installing automatic outdoor lights
  • Installing rails in the bathroom
  • Installing a security system (these can be used for emergency situations, not just break-ins)
  • Lowering pantry shelves (and moving any frequently used items or necessities to accessible locations)
  • Securing rugs to ensure they don’t slip

Depending on the person’s level of mobility, you may even want to consider paving a wheelchair ramp from the driveway to the front door. If they live in a multi-story home, consider moving their bedroom onto the first floor or installing a stair lift upstairs.

Worried about the costs of these modifications? Check with your accountant to see if there are any tax incentives or other programs to help with the costs.

2. Medical Needs

One of the most common reasons seniors enter a care home is because they need extra medical care. A senior with complex medical needs can easily forget to monitor their blood sugar, forget to take their medications or skip a doctor’s appointment.

Things like smart pill containers show what medication needs to be taken on what days and when. Setting alarms on smartphones can act as reminders to take blood pressure or blood sugar, or to attend a doctor’s appointment. Most importantly be sure that you understand all the senior’s medical needs and talk frequently about changes in their health or medication.

3. Meeting Emotional Needs

It’s easy to focus so intently on keeping our elderly loved ones safe that we forget about their emotional needs. Studies show that seniors benefit from being productive and socially engaged members of society. To support their emotional needs you can:

  • Ask for their advice and opinions about life – our elders have a lot of wisdom to share!
  • Encourage them to join activities geared towards seniors like art classes or aerobics (many programs even include pick up and drop off)
  • Encourage them to learn how to use online video calls and social media to stay in touch with friends and family
  • Encourage them to volunteer
  • Make regular plans to visit

Talk with a Senior Living Advisor

Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.

4. Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS)

Worried that your senior could suffer a fall, stroke or other emergency and have no way of calling emergency services for help? There are now more PERS on the market than ever before with new advanced features like GPS tracking, two way phone capability and even automatic emergency detection. These devices pay for themselves through peace of mind.

Looking for more information about senior safety? Consumer Safety has a number of guides for seniors, including information about keeping seniors safe during the holidays, which can be a particularly dangerous time for many seniors who are living on their own.

There’s lots you can do to help the seniors in your life remain independent and safe, but the most important thing is to listen closely to their feelings and ideas about the lifestyle that is most important to them. It’s important to ensure their wishes are respected.

How have you helped a senior loved one remain independent? What modifications to your home did you make to keep a parent safe? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.

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Kimberly Fowler