Many millennials face the real prospect of juggling a career, raising children and taking care of their parents. As their original caregiver passes on the proverbial hat to their children, millennials are confronted with the struggle of prioritising their parents’needs, to give back the same love, care and attention that was once extended to them.
The global population is ageing rapidly, and India is no exception. Before we know it, offering the level of care the elderly need will emerge as a huge social challenge and we need to prepare. Many a time our jobs require us to travel or even stay in a different city or country, and the feeling of not being able to take care of them makes us guilty and anxious. This gets further compounded when they suffer from serious medical conditions, which require constant attention and monitoring.
Caregivers in the family
Traditionally, every family has one person who becomes the primary caregiver, taking all the key health decisions, attending to the sick or elderly, and coordinating care and support. It could either be one of the spouses in the elderly couple, so long as they are capable and in good health, their children or the children’s spouses. Most often, the caregiver lives full time with the receiver and takes care of their needs based on the condition or ailment. Sometimes, they may require additional support in the form of professional help like a nurse or an attendant.
We fail to recognise that it demands the rigours of almost a full-time job and a big responsibility with no material gratification. In many cases, caregivers must sacrifice their personal lives, too. Without a support structure, this is counterproductive and impacts both the caregiver’s and the receiver’s lives. Currently, most caregivers are family members and they lack the technical training and medical qualifications required for proper health management. This can leave the family member mentally overwhelmed and physically exhausted. Thus, elder care and support needs proper planning, preparation and special skills.
The essential elements of elderly care: planning to care
It helps to begin by easing things out; sit together as a family and discuss it. Relatives can assign roles, speak about tasks they can take up. The financial responsibilities could be shared among earning members and individual contributions of the time and effort expected from each can be laid out. Allow your elders to have an input, to discuss their comfort and expectations. Do not compromise on going over any area of concern in a sensitive manner. The main caregiver’s health and wellbeing should also be prioritised.
Create a senior-friendly environment at home. This is similar to preparing for a baby’s arrival and proofing the house for them:
·Plan for possible emergencies, consider how the elders can go about their routine without potential risks such as hurting themselves or compromising their safety. For instance, a fall can result in being indisposed with an injury or a fracture. Reinforcements in the bathroom and toilet such as grips, non-slip floor mats, a bedside railing, provision of a support such as a walker, can help independent mobility. Monitoring and company for an Alzheimer’s patient can avoid unpleasant confrontations if the older person gets confused and steps out of the house when unattended.
·Arrange regular health checkups, monitoring and frequent assessment to detect health conditions well in time.
·Limited social interactions can be emotionally draining and often overlooked. It is important that family members step in and spend time to give the primary caregiver a break and to keep the spirits of your loved one up as well.
·Make use of technology available today like smartphone apps, social media, local group activities, entertainment options so that the elders do not feel isolated and lonely.
Speak to others with similar challenges; create a support group with like-minded people and discuss the challenges and solutions. Get the advice of geriatric experts and seek out and learn from others’experiences.
The right professionals to guide you
There are service providers that offer home care facilities and have experienced professionals to take care of the elderly, especially those with chronic ailments requiring special attention. They are well-equipped to assist with your elders’ mental and physical needs. Not only do these nurses and caregivers bring effective and professional expertise but they also work with the family to build trust. Many older parents prefer to be in the comfort of their homes and with the help of such trained staff they can manage daily tasks and activities. For elders with advanced health conditions, they even offer the proper medical equipment setup. From intensive care to intermediate and even basic assistance, top-notch care can be welcomed into your home. The presence of qualified and trusted home health care providers can simplify your lifestyle and is the smartest way for children to ensure a level of care best suited for their parents.
The writer is MD & CEO, Portea Medical.