Over 90% of senior citizens prefer to live in their own home rather than an assisted living facility. Often, it can be difficult for you, as their adult child, to understand this decision. You lack confidence in their ability to perform daily tasks and waste time worrying about their health and safety.
Fortunately, even if your elderly parents have chosen to live alone, there are ways that you can help them. Here are five methods of improving their home without completely removing their independence:
Do You Have Access?
Work with your parent to set up a system which allows you to check in on them. Of course, you should be sure that you have a spare key so that you can enter their home in case of emergencies. But, as modern technology advances, holding on to a spare key is no longer the only option.
Discuss setting up a security system or doorbell camera, such as Ring to allow you to check in on your parent. Always seek their permission before doing so. You can also use a “Find my Friends” app to connect your smartphones. This will keep you aware of their location even if you live far away.
A Safety-Focused Remodel
Remodel your parents’ house to both focus on safety and preserve independence. Lower high cabinets and shelves. Install grip bars in bathrooms and showers. Replace stairs with ramps, elevators or chairlifts. Declutter floors so that there is plenty of room to walk around without trip hazards.
Regularly inspect, clean and replace all safety features. Hire professionals to check up on plumbing, electricity and HVAC systems. They will ensure that everything remains up to standard. In particular, clean and upgrade the smoke extract system in rooms such as the kitchen. Extract ducts prevent the house from catching fire, even if an absentminded inhabitant forgets to turn the stove off.
Plan Out Their Day-to-Day Routine
You may find yourself concerned that your parent is neglecting daily tasks. Are they eating regular meals? Do they clean their home? Do they brush their teeth, take showers, and change their clothes? Most important of all, do they take necessary medications on time?
Help them place reminders and to-do lists in noticeable locations around the house. Attach Post-it notes to bathroom mirrors. Pin reminders to doors. Use fridge magnets to spell out “EAT” or “MEDS”. Keep their medications out in the open. It’s much easier to forget to take a pill if it’s locked in a medicine cabinet rather than sitting next to the sink.
If they can’t drive, have a neighbour or friend take them to appointments. Check in with their doctors to make sure they are still attending regularly. Living alone should not be an opportunity for your parent to neglect their health.
Take Advantage of Modern Conveniences
Sure, security systems can help your parents stay independent. But many other modern technologies are equally useful. What about online shopping? With a few clicks of a button, an elderly parent can have clothes, groceries and more delivered right to their door.
Driving or even walking long distances can be dangerous for single elders. Consider delivery as an option if your parent has difficulty leaving the house. You can even research local grocery delivery programs. Your parent can buy their favourite snacks without needing to get in the car!
Get your parent online and help them socialize using the Internet. Isolation is miserable for them and worrying for you. Use social media to help your parent join local elder-focused groups. They’ll even learn about fun community events they weren’t aware of!
In Case of Emergency
Finally, always make sure to have appropriate emergency measures in place. (Plus, update them often!) Ensure that your parent has easy access to emergency numbers. These should include your own, the police, close family, friends and neighbours. Consider also installing an alert system. This will allow them to call for aid should they fall or injure themselves while at home.
Arrange for a neighbour to check in on your parent if you live far away. Schedule family phone calls on Saturday or Sunday evenings. Hire a caretaker to come in a few days a week. They can help your parent clean the house and cook. AND they can keep them walking around and socializing. An active mind and body will help your parent remain independent for as long as possible!
The idea of an elderly parent living on their own can be quite frightening at first. Take proper care to assist them in these small but important ways. They’ll get to stay independent while your worries disappear. Health, safety, physical and emotional needs will all be taken care of. Plus, you’ll talk more often. The whole family will be happy!