Guide to Elder Care

Caring for the elderly or elderly care is all about addressing the social and personal requirements of senior citizens. Citizens who require some assistance with their daily activities and health care. Elderly care can include assisted living, adult day care, nursing homes, in-home care, retirement/old age homes, etc.
From a global perspective, elderly care cannot be limited to any one practice as there are different cultural perspectives on this issue. For example, in most western countries old age homes are acceptable, whereas in many Asian countries the idea of putting one’s parent or elderly relative in an old age home is at the very least frowned upon.


Interesting Facts about our Aging Population

  • About 20% of all the people who have ever lived past age 65 are alive at this point in time
  • Half of the population of the United States of America in 1860 was below the age of 20 and it was widely expected that most of this population will not live till the age 65.
  • In 1940 only 7% of people aged 65 would live till the age of 90. However, it is estimated that by 2050 this number will increase to 42%.
  • Longevity in age has steadily increased the gap between retirement and death

10 facts on ageing and the life course: Interesting facts about the world’s aging population according to the World Health Organization
The Pace of Aging: Australia and Japan: An interesting 2006 article from the Australian Bureau of Statistics
Administration on Aging : Provides key facts about the aging population of America
Ageing population: Facts behind the fiction: Facts about the impact that an ageing population will have on the UK


Caring for the Elderly

The significance of an aging population is that elderly people usually contract chronic diseases and need constant health care as these diseases leave them in pain and make it difficult for them to perform routine tasks. As a result, caring for the elderly requires both time and money.
The challenges posed for caring for the elderly (parent, spouse, close friend etc.) are many. These challenges are exacerbated when a person is suddenly thrown into the situation and given the responsibility.

Caring for Elderly Parents

A large part of elderly care is usually for one’s own parents. Although this is commonplace in most societies and can be very fulfilling it is by no means an easy task. The first step towards taking proper care of one’s parents is to make it clear at the outset that everyone of the siblings will need to be involved (unless you are the only one). In addition to this you need to take your own family into confidence and talk to them about the kind of role they will need to play.
Basically, care giving to parents can be quite similar to running a business where a CEO delegates responsibilities in a way that motivates everyone. Here are a few tips for you to manage taking care of your parents in old age:

  • Plan Ahead: Planning ahead for possible eventualities will increase your odds of making your endeavor successful. To help your parents maintain their health and independence it is more than likely that you will need to pay for certain services and equipment. Unless you have a proper plan, things can get out of hand. Planning ahead also includes among other things, time management, for example caring for your elderly parents might require frequent visits to the hospital; how will you manage that?
  • Exercise: Get them to exercise regularly. Regular exercise to some extent protects the elderly against disease and also keeps them functionally young by up to 15 years.
  • Manage their Medication: According to Elinor Ginzler, co-author of Caring for Your Parents: The Complete AARP Guide: “Poor medication management is the No. 1 reason for leaving an independent living situation and going into supervised care".
  • Keep the Elderly Involved: Get them to do something around the house or to volunteer for a simple job because suddenly becoming “useless” can lead to depression and eventually a lot more problems.

Beer’s list: The Beer’s lists are used as a national guideline and reference guide for pharmacists and physicians to improve the use of medication in the elderly.

Problems with Medication Use in the Elderly: This is a study that discusses problems with medication use in the elderly from an Australian point of view

Medication Management for the Elderly: How to manage medication for the Elderly

Caring for an Elderly Parent: An article by CARERS UK talking about how to care for your parents in old age
Caring for Elderly Relatives: This document helps to explain the various aspects of how to care for an elderly relative

Caring for Parents in Old Age: This article by the US State Department describes in detail how one should care for their parents

Caring for Your Elderly Parent: This is a practical guide to caring for elderly parents from an Australian perspective


Confronting Depression in the Elderly

One of the most common things associated with aging is sadness and depression. Old people often lose their drive, independence as well as their loved ones, which results in sadness. Sadness is not a big problem unless it turns into depression. This can put the elderly at risk of diseases and can - in extreme cases - make them suicidal. Those caring for elderly patients need to keep a close eye on signs of depression and take immediate steps if any are found.
In the elderly, common signs of depression include:

  • Physical complaints - aches and pains, headaches, weakness, etc.
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Increase in anxiety
  • Increase in irritability
  • Withdrawal
  • Lack of concern about their appearance

If depression in the elderly is not properly treated it can lead to more pain and distress as well as suicide. According to various studies, senior citizens commit 20 percent of all suicides.
The best way to recover from depression in seniors is social support from family and friends.


When should professional care givers be contacted?

It is not always possible to take care of elderly patients no matter how much you would like; in some cases professional help becomes inevitable. If you are confused as to whether your elderly loved one requires professional care, you can get an idea by measuring their ability to perform the “Activities of Daily Living” (or ADL) and “Instrumental Activities of Daily Living” (or IADL).
ADL refers to certain essential activities in a person’s daily life such as going to the toilet, dressing up, taking a bathing, etc.
IADL are non-critical but important activities that one performs daily such as shopping, cooking, managing finances, etc.
To decide whether professionals should be contacted to give an elderly person care both ADL and IADL should be assessed. As a rule of thumb, someone who cannot perform one ADL is considered “moderately disabled,” and one who cannot perform two or more ADLs is considered “severely disabled.”
Activities of Daily Living: This is a detailed extract that discusses ADL in detail
Measuring the Activities of Daily Living: a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services comparison of National Surveys
Checklist of Activities of Daily Living (ADL): A checklist to help you determine how much assistance an elderly person needs
The Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) Scale: A very convenient list of IADL activities
A Longitudinal Study on Aging: A study examining the stability over time of ADL and IADL activities in the Aging in Manitoba (AIM) Longitudinal Study.
ADL and (IADL) Questionnaire: A nice questionnaire to help evaluate an elderly person’s state of health


Retirement/Old-Age Holmes

A retirement or old-age home is - as the name suggests - a housing facility for senior citizens. These differ from a nursing home in the level of medical care imparted.
Today old-age homes are no more the taboo they once were, at least in some communities. They are one might say a convenient reality. These homes provide elderly folk the physical care they require, while allowing their young family members the ability to focus on their careers and family with some peace of mind.
However, some people are still questioning whether an old-age home can substitute for love and affection that only family can provide and can professionalism of such a place replace a child?
Australian Retirement Village Association: Join over 16,000 other Australians who have made their homes in a retirement village
It’s Your Life: Information about retirement villages in Australia
Homes for Old Age Need a Radical Rethink: A U.K. article highlighting the importance of rethinking housing for the elderly in order to give them more independence

Related Categories

Retirement Villages and Homes
Retirement Planning Advisors
Aged Support Services
Nursing Homes
Superannuation and Annuity

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