Creating a Safe and Peaceful Environment for Mom or Dad
by Brandee Cowley, RN BSN, Apostolic Christian Skylines Home Care Services
Very often the role of family caregiver lands on the shoulders of an older adult’s son or daughter with little or no warning like a bolt out of the blue. The trigger may be a sudden illness, a hospitalization, a fall, or any one of a number of incidents that make it clear that mom or dad needs more help and support from you—immediately. For example, help or guidance quickly may be needed in a decision about where they are going to live and—even more difficult and in many ways more important—how they going to live. Hopefully they have advance directives in place, and you can expect to be working closely with the individuals who have powers of attorney for health care and property.
The family caregiver’s role is more complex when mom or dad wants to continue to live in their own home, as do the majority of older adults. Responsibility for arranging for or keeping up with home maintenance chores is becoming yours, even though dad has been calling the shots his entire adult life and may not (most likely will not) hand over the reins willingly. Like it or not, it’s mostly up to you to figure out how this is going to happen sothat the job gets done and mom or dad preserves their dignity; don’t forget that it’s still their home. In addition, studies have shown that the atmosphere within the home has a role to play in promoting health and preventing disease—presenting more opportunities for you as caregiver to make a positive difference in their well-being.
Here are some ideas on how to approach this important but often daunting role.
Begin with safety. First and foremost, their home needs to be a safe place in which to live, especially at this time. Take immediate steps to determine how safe their home is for them in their present situation, especially if a fall was involved. Statistics show the probability of falling increases after the first fall.
Begin by checking walking paths in the home to ensure they are clutter-free and that there is adequate lighting. Eliminate throw rugs if possible; they are a trip hazard. Have grab bars installed near toilets and in the shower. The Consumer Product Safety Commission offers a complete printable Home Safety Checklist at www.tinyurl.com/nv-cpsc that will help you get you started. If home health services have been ordered by your parent’s health care provider or you have decided it is time to bring in caregiving services, a safety assessment will likely be part of their assessment processes as well.
Routine maintenance activities may have been forgotten or deferred. Check to see if the batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have been replaced within the past year. If uncertain, just replace them all; peace of mind is worth spending a few dollars. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has developed a two-page Healthy Homes Maintenance Checklist. Download it at www.tinyurl.com/nv-checklist.
Focus on the atmosphere within the home. A comforting and peaceful atmosphere in the home promotes a sense of well-being. Helping to make this happen is an important part of the family caregiver’s role. Avoid taking a medical or institutional approach; as much as possible, help their home to continue to be “home.” Here are a few ideas.
You may feel a strong urge to take over for the sake of getting things done quickly and efficiently. As much as possible, involve your parent in decisions about what happens within the home. As an example, favorite foods are part of a sense of well-being and, if grocery shopping and meal planning assistance is needed, this is a good place to begin working together. If your dad has fallen behind paying bills, propose a way to work with him to get this done. To him losing control of his checkbook represents loss of control over his money—and his dignity.
Respect your parent’s privacy. If assistance is now needed with bathing or showering, it may be easier to bring in a caregiver if your parent is a private person. Make sure to leave a private space for mom or dad as well.
Music is soothing and can bring back happier times. Find mom or dad’s CDs and ask them which they would like to hear; most likely you already know their favorites. A smartphone or portable CD player combined with a Bluetooth speaker is all the sound system that’s needed.
Being a family caregiver is a privilege. While it can be every bit as frustrating and stressful as it is rewarding, the role of family caregiver is your chance to help someone who has played an important role in your life at a time when they need help in theirs.
AC Skylines Home Care provides in–home care and nursing services. For more information and a no–charge consultation, call AC Skylines Home Care Services at (309) 689–5343 or send email to email@example.com. Visit www.acskylineshomecare.org or Facebook.com/ACskylinesHomeCare.
Apostolic Christian Skylines’ continuing care retirement community offers senior living options ranging from independent living to skilled nursing care. For more information, call Apostolic Christian Skylines at (309) 683-2500 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.acskylines.org or Facebook.com/acskylines.