The Baby Boomers are settling into their Golden Years in record numbers. Many are just now enjoying retirement or are about to do so. Some are already experiencing health problems, but many will begin to do so in the coming decade. It’s the looming problem many politicians have talked about with things like Medicare and Social Security. But for the current crop of parents with young and adolescent children, it means that they will soon have to start thinking about how to take care of their own aging parents on top of their children.
Fortunately, there are many products and services available that can make it a little easier. Here are some of the things you can do to make accommodations for your aging parents or other family members (and to make life a little easier on yourself):
Get the Right Furniture
Many elderly people have a hard time with mobility. It can be difficult just getting up from a comfy chair, let alone walking up a flight of stairs. You can make it easier for your parents to maintain a sense of autonomy by getting a few key pieces of furniture. For example, a lift assist chair can help them get up from a seated position easily, and an adjustable bed can help them do the same after waking.
If you have stairs, you might even consider getting an electric chair that moves up the stairs. If that’s not possible, you could invest in a transforming bed that can be kept on the first floor, such as a pullout couch or even a lift chair (some models also fold back to become comfortable sleeping spaces).
Provide Supports throughout the Home
No, we’re not talking about emotional support, though that is always needed. We’re talking about physical supports. Even if your loved one isn’t suffering mobility issues, he may still get unsteady on his feet at times. Mount a grip bar in the shower or over the tub for easily getting in or out of the space or just maintaining balance. Put another bar next to the toilet. Put a strong rail that is easy to grip on the staircase.
If you aren’t sure what your home needs, consult with your loved one’s doctor or nurse for suggestions. Don’t wait until there’s an accident to realize what you need.
Make the Space Safer
You had to babyproof your home when your children were young. Now that your parents are older, you will have to do a bit of the same. No, your parents won’t stick a knife in the outlet, but they might run into the corner of the coffee table and get a nasty bruise or cut that causes a serious — and now life-threatening — infection.
Make your home safer by putting foam bumpers on wood, stone, or tile corners of furniture, counters, and more. Put slip guards in the tub or shower and next to the exterior doors. If you have hardwood or tile floors, put down plenty of rugs for better traction and to provide some cushion in case of a fall. Install an easy alert system in the rooms, such as a bell or intercom.
Consider Restrictions When Meal Planning
Your aging relatives likely have all kinds of meal restrictions now. Some will be a matter of changing responses to food, such as no longer being able to tolerate spicy foods or getting indigestion from tomatoes. Some restrictions will be a matter of following the doctor’s orders, such as cutting back on salt for hypertension or avoiding sugar for diabetes.
Learn all the restrictions that your loved one has and plan meals accordingly. The whole family doesn’t have to follow that diet, but you should make it easy for your loved one to share meals without having to make a lot of adaptions. For example, if you are making a pasta dish, you leave the noodles plain so that each person can choose their own sauce or toppings. Be sure to also include plenty of snacks and ready-to-eat foods that also meet guidelines.
Finally, just “accommodate” your aging parents by loving them and by teaching your children to respect and honor them, as well. You will be teaching your children compassion and charity, but you’ll also just be doing the right thing. Hope that one day your relatives will do the same for you.