Caring for an Aging Relative: Tips for Today

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By Karen Mulgrew

Women are caring for loved ones right now. They don't have time to wait for new policies before their work begins. Karen Mulgrew, a Registered Nurse, gives some pointers on working as a Caregiver today. Her tips first appeared in Womanly Times, the Women's Health Clinic (Winnipeg) Newsletter.

My father had been living on his own in Southern Ontario since my mother passed away fifteen years ago. In 1988 he had a major stroke and open heart surgery, seriously affecting his gait, balance and muscle strength. He needed assistance with activities of daily living, so we decided it would be best for him to move to Winnipeg to live with us. Suddenly, I was a sandwich generation family caregiver!

Here are some tips for caring for an aging relative:

  • Be prepared. Find resources for seniors in the community
  • Be aware of their normal daily routine, including physical mobility, eating and bowel and bladder habits. Adapt your support to their needs.
  • Find out if there are things that might help maintain the person's strength and even improve function - such as an exercise class for seniors.
  • Recognize the situation may continue to change.
  • Health Records: If the person is moving from another city or province, have their records transferred.
  • Medications: Keep a thorough record of all prescriptions and have them transferred into local pharmacy computers. Over-medication can cause falls or confusion. Know what medications are given, when and why.
  • Moving and leaving friends behind can be very stressful. When possible, encourage community involvement and social activities.
  • Reinforce the person's ability to be independent.
  • Allow personal privacy.
  • Allow extra time for walking, talking, and doing things.
  • Footwear should be proper non-skid shoes. Slippers should not be worn when climbing stairs. Avoid scatter rugs, loose cords or waxed floors.
  • Install tub rails and non-slip mats for bottom of tub or shower and handrails at all stairs.
  • Keep a flashlight by the bed.
  • Make sure prescription glasses are current.
  • If necessary, canes and walkers should be used at all times.
  • Try not to rush meals and use additional seasonings to increase taste. Be aware of the need for adequate fluids and fibre.
  • Attaching earphones to the back of the television can reduce the need to turn the sound up. This can be very helpful to the rest of the family members who may prefer a little quiet time.
  • Try to be patient; certain behaviours are normal parts of aging (gradual loss of memory, especially for recent events, hard of hearing);

And don't forget to care for yourself!

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