Caregiving for a family member can often feel like a balancing act between you and your senior loved one. You want to provide the right care for your aging parent while still tending to the needs and responsibilities in your daily life. On the other hand, your loved one acknowledges they need support — yet wants to maintain their independence as long as possible. If you find yourself walking this tightrope, there are simple steps you can take today to provide some peace of mind for you both.
It begins with the most important thing you can do for your loved one.
Safety Is Job #1
According to AARP, more than 75% of U.S. adults over the age of 50 want to stay in their current home as long as possible. As a family caregiver, this will come as no surprise to you. Your aging parent has good reasons to want to stay in place: familiar routines, memories, good neighbors, and a community developed over many years in one place.
What may surprise you is that only 1 in 10 homes are considered to be “aging ready” according to a 2020 study by the U.S. Census Bureau. There are many places in our homes we seldom consider that are significant factors for those with mobility issues. These are many areas of a home that can pose a fall risk: stairs, bathtubs, rugs, stools, and wires all present a potential hazard. Even beloved pets and their toys and accessories can become a tripping issue.
As a family caregiver, ensuring the health and safety of your loved one is job number one. This requires a two-sided effort to ensure both the medical health and physical safety of your loved one. After all, if your loved one experiences a spike in blood pressure or drop in blood sugar when no one is around, it can be every bit as dangerous as a loose wire or slippery bathtub.
Monitor Health from Anywhere
Your journey as a family caregiver likely began because of a change in the health of your loved one. With any such change, it becomes more necessary to routinely monitor the health vitals of your aging parents. But what happens if your loved one wishes to remain in their home? Providing care over a distance brings additional challenges. Mainly, you cannot be present at every moment to monitor vital health statistics like blood sugar, blood pressure, sudden weight change, or even a health emergency like a fall. Fortunately, there are remote monitoring solutions like Connected Caregiver to solve this exact problem.
Connected Caregiver provides remote health and safety monitoring that keeps you informed and helps maintain your loved one’s independence. Through safe and secure monitoring devices, you will receive regular updates on blood sugar, blood pressure, and heart rate directly to your smartphone via the Connected Caregiver app. It can also alert you if a reading is too high or too low (based upon levels you input specifically for your loved one). These regular updates and alerts not only keep you in the loop, but they can also be shared with family members and healthcare providers.
Caregiving requires making some changes in the home to reduce the risk of injury, but your loved one may find changes to their environment an additional stressor in an already stressful season. Some changes, however, can be quite simple, but make a big difference.
Walk through the home and pay attention to what is loose on the floor—then secure it. Remove decorative throw rugs or tape down corners of area rugs. Relocate or tape down power cords for lamps and appliances. Install nightlights. You may also consider hiring someone to routinely clean and declutter their space.
If your loved one has a pet, ensure food and water bowls are clear of walkways and consider removing toys from the home. Pets provide invaluable emotional support, but you will need to pay careful attention to your parent’s ability to care for them.
Secure Their Safety
Falls represent a major health hazard to senior adults. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 seniors in the United States will suffer from a fall this year. That corresponds to a fall occurring at every second of every day. Additionally, roughly 32,000 deaths will be the result from those falls. If your aging loved one is experiencing mobility issues, you must take additional measures to ensure their safety. What they need depends on the design of their home and could potentially involve interior or exterior renovations.
Install no-slip strips in bathtubs and showers, as well as no-slip mats on bathroom floors. Certain Medicare Advantage Plans will pay for these minor safety modifications. Next, look into having a contractor install secure handrails in bathrooms and stairwells. These may cost several hundred dollars but can make a big difference. Home security monitoring can provide a different type of security, ranging from video doorbells to security cameras to a fully monitored security system.
Additional measures come with higher costs but vary based on the needs of your loved ones. These could include zero-entry bathtubs or showers, zero-entry modifications to doorways, wheelchair ramps, or motorized chair lifts for stairwells. If you are unsure what modifications your loved one’s home requires, you download AARP’s home safety checklist or talk to your healthcare provider for a recommendation for a home safety evaluation.
Even with proper precautions like the ones mentioned above, your loved one can still suffer an unexpected fall. That’s frightening enough as it is, but even more so if they’re home alone at the time and can’t call for help. That’s why emergency alert devices with fall detection, like the one offered by Connected Caregiver, are a great idea for seniors at high risk of falling that also provide valuable peace of mind for their family caregivers. These devices — commonly called PERS, or Personal Emergency Response Systems — feature a central button that immediately connects (and transmits GPS location) to a 24/7 monitoring center when pressed. Connected Caregiver additionally offers automatic fall detection that will recognize when a fall occurs and alert emergency responders as well as other features like GPS location at no additional charge.
Watch Their Wallet
Finally, you may need to take measures to ensure your loved one’s finances are protected from scams. The sad reality is that senior adults are regular targets for predatory credit offers, phone scams, and con artists. Direct mail solicitations can be blocked via the Direct Marketing Association’s mail preference service. Unwanted credit card or loan offers can be blocked by visiting optoutprescreen.com. And you can talk to your loved one’s phone service provider to see if they offer a service to block robocalls. If your loved one is willing, you may also consider asking their bank to send copies of statements so that you can watch for any irregularities.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, you have many options to help ensure the physical health and safety of your aging parent or loved one. As a caregiver, you are the best judge of what is useful in your specific situation. The good news is that you have many options and resources available to you to choose from.
At Connected Caregiver we have committed ourselves to equipping caregivers with resources and tools such as care coordination and logistics, and remote health and safety monitoring to make caregiving a little easier.
We believe no family caregiver should ever feel overwhelmed and alone. The incredible people who commit their time and energy to ensure the safety of their loved ones deserve the very best resources to safeguard their families and their own lives. Most of all, they deserve to feel in control and confident in their ability to care for the people they care about most.