(ARA) - There are over 22 million households in the U.S. that care for someone over the age of 50. Caring for an aging loved one can be a real challenge and doesn't always come with a "How-to" guide.
Yet, the majority of long-term care tends to be provided informally and privately. People simply don't know where to turn for advice or help, compounding the difficulty of the situation. Doctor Marion (aka Doctor Marion Somers, Ph. D), author and expert in elder care topics, trends and solutions, has partnered with BoomerTowne.com, an informational Web site for baby boomers. As a member of the BoomerTowne.com Council, Doctor Marion has provided ten simple steps to make caring for an aging loved one more enriching and less stressful for everyone involved.
"It is important for everyone to understand that they are not alone and that many people are dealing with similar situations," says Doctor Marion. "There are simple steps that you can take to make the care-giving experience a pleasant and manageable journey."
Following are some of Doctor Marion's tips for dealing with the challenge of caring for an elderly loved one. Additional information and tips can be found at BoomerTowne.com.
1. Communicate openly: It is difficult to care for someone if you don't know his or her needs. Discuss his or her thoughts and talk about special memories and values.
2. Put safety first: Similar to baby-proofing a house, certain things can be done to make a home safer for elderly people who may not be as capable as they once were. Stick non-slip strips on the bathtub floor and remove throw rugs to prevent falls.
3. Improve the lifestyle: While elderly people may experience changes in their lives, they still need to have one. Help keep your loved ones active to improve their happiness. Encourage them to participate in creative outlets they enjoy, such as woodworking or knitting.
4. Make life easier with adapted equipment: Add amplifiers to phones and doorbells to help those with hearing problems. Replace hard to fasten zippers or shoestrings with Velcro to aid people who have trouble with detailed hand movements.
5. Manage financial issues: One of the more challenging aspects of caring for loved ones is taking over their financial matters. At times, it's best to hire a skilled professional, especially if you are uncomfortable with numbers.
6. Take care of legal issues: This important aspect is often left until the last minute. To make things easier, be sure loved ones have a will with a clearly stated beneficiary of their estate. If this is not finished, the estate will be left to the state causing legal difficulties for surviving family members.
7. Find mobility in disability: Travel may be difficult for the elderly, but it's not impossible. Check ahead to determine if destinations are handicap-accessible to make moving around easier.
8. Find the right housing option: Moving can be a big transition, but many people aren't capable of caring for loved ones in their own homes. Research different facilities to find the right fit for a loved one. Assisted living can be a nice middle step from independent living to a nursing home.
9. Hire help when needed: Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed about. Be sure to check references and outline a contract that specifically details what will be required of each party.
10. Learn to let go: Losing a loved one is a part of life. Preparing yourself and your loved one is the easiest way to deal with this situation. Plan for the future together and discuss what loved ones want at their funerals and what they would like in their obituaries.