February 14, 2010

MALAYSIA: Our Privilege

. SELANGOR, Malaysia / The Star / Health / Family Life / February 14, 2010 Caring for the elderly in your family ALTHOUGH there should be no hesitation when the time comes to take on the task of caring for our elderly, it is a subject that often needs be considered and handled with care. Being the caregiver is no easy task, either mentally, physically, or financially. What can we do to ensure that the decisions we make would benefit our aged loved ones? We can start by holding a family conference to decide on the roles each member of the family will play. Teenage relatives and children can help care for grandma or grandpa by making regular visits, making phone calls to chit chat, assisting with household chores, running simple errands, and so on. Relatives who live far away should not be left out. They can bring much joy to the elderly through regular phone calls, postcards, letters, and scrapbooks of their life. The numerous issues that often arise should not be the sole responsibility of the appointed primary caregiver just because they live closer to the parent. If your parents have their own home, it would be ideal for them to be cared for in their own surroundings. There is comfort in familiarity, and though old, you can be sure they treasure their independence. – Reuters If your parents have their own home, it would be ideal for them to be cared for in their own surroundings. There is comfort in familiarity, and though old, you can be sure they treasure their independence. You might want to find out how they feel about any changes you wish to make. When it comes to their health, address the family doctor about your concerns in front of your parent so he or she feels involved in any decision pertaining to their care. You can expect some resistance if they feel their independence is threatened. Do not make any decisions on their behalf, without their knowledge, as you would surely face stronger resistance and problems in the long run. Are you ready to take on the responsibility? If you are married, you must understand that any decision to be primary caregiver will affect your entire family. It can be especially trying on your spouse and children if the parent is suffering from dementia-related illness or is physically frail. There are many things to consider before you invite your parent to stay with you. Before you even start, make a checklist of what it will require in terms of living space, diet, supplements, medications, and other health and hygiene considerations. It may not be easy, but by mapping well-thought-out plans, the transition can be considerably easier and more joyful for everyone involved. Bedroom. The ideal room should be clean and airy. A coat of paint in soothing, refreshing shades should add some cheer. Aside from a bed, there should also be a place to sit. If a television is placed in the room, be sure there is a remote control for it. Grab bars by the bed may be necessary as seniors often experience dizziness upon getting up. Grab bars help them get their bearings before they arise; they are also helpful for helping the elderly rise to a sitting position. You might also want to consider some sort of push-button alarm near the bed in the event help is needed. The ideal location for a senior’s bedroom is on the ground level, with an attached bathroom and toilet. Make sure lighting is adequate. A lot of accidents are caused by poor vision due to inadequate lighting. Keep stairs, passageways, and even closets illuminated. Get a proper reading light and magnifier for those who love to read. If your parent lives alone, consider cctvs or room monitors like those used for babies that are highly sensitive to even the slightest sound. Bathroom. Make sure the floor is non-slip. If using a mat, make sure it does not skid on the floor and is also non slippery to the feet. Install safety handlebars to help the weak or handicapped move around safely. Install switches that are easier on the arthritic hand. As showering can tire the elderly, consider a shower seat or stool. Place soaps, shampoo and towels close by to avoid any mishaps through over-reaching. Provide proper racks and hooks at a convenient height. Toilet. Install a safety frame to aid the elderly in sitting, rising, and to offer stable support. It is inevitable that sooner or later, the weakening muscle will need all the help we can give. Again, make sure the toilet roll and tissues are within easy reach. Floors. Prevent falls and accidents. Remove any rugs that can slip on the floor in the passageways. Check regularly for broken floor tiles. Non-slip mats should be used. Keep electrical cords safely tucked under rugs or along baseboards and don’t leave things lying around on the floor. Discourage use of talcum powder as the residue may powder the floor as well and make it slippery. Special needs. Be aware that they might need help with basic needs such as bathing or toileting but find it difficult to admit this, even to you. Some might feel ashamed by their inadequacy and become short-tempered or angry. Understand that this may not be directed at you but at the situation. Another difficult subject that may horrify the elderly is the need to wear protective diapers due to incontinence, especially if he or she is a proud person. Just take it in your stride and treat it matter-of-factly, with minimal fuss. If bedridden, a bedpan would be necessary. Make sure your parent learns how to use it correctly and it is located where she has the privacy she needs. Also have what she needs such as tissues and toilet roll within reach before leaving her alone. Do not forget some form of hygienic wash for hands. Empty bedpans quickly and discreetly, rinse, and store. If you parent is bedridden, watch out for bedsores that start as a reddened area, eventually breaking out into pressure ulcers. Prevent it by turning her at intervals throughout the day and pile on the pillows so she can sit up comfortably. Medication and supplements. As a caregiver, one of your most important responsibilities is to ensure the elderly get their necessary medication or supplement on schedule. It is best if family members know what each medication is for and how it works. Many elderly patients have been known to forget if they have taken their medication, so it is important that you remember and keep track. A pillbox with designated times and days of the week will help make this easier. Meals. Take into account the special diet your parents may need at this point of their lives. Unless it is truly debilitating to their health, do not deprive them of their favourite foods completely. Meals should be tasty and not completely bland. If unappetising, they might not eat properly and their health may fail. Do not let them have meals alone. Join them for meals as often as you can, and serve meals attractively on proper china. Entertainment. Many elderly people, especially those who cannot not venture out, love to read or watch television. In this case, note that one common family friction that arises is over the volume of the TV. The old folks may insist their hearing is not impaired, yet turn the TV up full volume. Try headphones! Be aware that the opposite may happen where family entertainment may disrupt your parent’s rest. Do try to encourage other activities other than the television, like puzzles, card games, and creative hobbies. Self-esteem. Ensure that your elderly father gets his morning shave so he feels clean and fresh; and your mother gets her hair done. Remember the little things can maintain self-esteem and confidence in people as they age. If your parents decide to stay on their own, arrange for cooked meals or transportation to ferry your parents for their check-ups if you can’t make it all the time. You may also want to link them up to a senior citizen’s club or facility where they have a chance to be with people their age. Interaction with the younger generation is important too as they will get much joy from such associations. You cannot be on call round the clock. Everyone needs a break, so family support and community services are vital to making such an endeavour a little less taxing on everyone involved. Make your visits frequent and habitual – know how much they look forward to your visits. If they opt to stay with you, set some ground rules. Note that it may be difficult, however, for the parent to adjust to being the “child” instead of being the head of their household. Tackling emotions When you step in to help, their initial emotion is one of tremendous relief. Parents feel grateful that they have not been neglected and are happy to have someone watch over them. This eventually transforms into other emotions – anger or guilt – as they begin to think that they have become a burden to you. Understand that they may be feeling frustrated at themselves and they fear what the future holds. Caregivers must first take care of themselves before they can deal with the emotional rollercoaster their parents may subject them to. Being emotionally strong and stable will help you cope rationally and not over-react. Be an emphatic listener and try not to take things personally whenever parents complain or say hurtful things in fits of frustration. Listening is a powerful tool and conveys to parents that what they say is important. One golden rule: when caring for the aged, try not to dwell on past hurts. Do say sorry for anything in the past that warrants an apology. Show them you love them and tell them so. And do not put off anything that needs to be said or done today. Article in The Star by courtesy of Kotra Pharma, for educational and communication purposes only not personal medical advice. [rc] Copyright © 1995-2010 Star Publications (M) Bhd