For so long, we elder care professionals talked about quality of care but not quality of life for seniors. We now know that quality of care is part of quality of life that includes every aspect of an elder’s life. And that having a good quality of life improves health and quality of care.
Aging at home presents more challenges to an elder’s quality of life than moving into a facility in that all the safety of a nursing home needs to be built into the home that elders are resistant to change. It takes well-coordinated care best done by a Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) to keep the elder’s care at a steady flow and ensure the caregiver and family are happy with the care as well as the elder. It takes participation from the entire Care Team to keep the elder afloat. I am passionate about teaching people how to do this as everyone can’t afford a GCM.
My approach is to make sure that the following elders’ needs are met regardless of where they live. Here are 10 Ways to Improve an Elder’s Quality of Life.
Make sure elders spend time outside every day, which is calming and promotes exercise. Create green spaces where they can grow a garden and interact with something natural.
Create order inside the home though organizational methods and label sections to help elders navigate their home more safely. Call a home safety company to perform a safety assessment to rule out risks in the home. This reduces an elder’s anxiety in the home.
Meet and interview several candidates before hiring your caregiver. Give the caregiver as much info as you can about the elder including their interests, and suggest activities the elder may enjoy in and out of the home. State their preferences. Check in with the caregiver frequently to ensure success. Maintain a calendar in the home with all appointments, caregiver schedule, family visits.
Hire a Geriatric Care Manager to assess the elder, provide a Care Plan and ongoing Care Management of the elder’s care from securing and managing caregivers to consulting with their doctors about their care for best outcomes. They allow adult children to spend more quality time with their parents and therefore make better use of the time.
Schedule family visits to an elder to give all much needed relaxing time together at ideal times for the elder. Preparing meals and taking walks as able are great ways to keep connecting. With cell phones turned off. We need to slow down to connect with elders who are moving more slowly. It is good for everybody and gives elders something to look forward to. Monitor elders for memory loss and new symptoms and stay in touch with the Care Team to compare notes and treat symptoms early to avoid issues.
Call an elder frequently to check in. Especially when they are starting a new medication, on anniversaries, when you know they have not been feeling well or are more confused than normal. Never hesitate to call a doctor for advice. This keeps the elder well and makes the Care Team work (i.e. elder, family, caregiver, doctors, providers).
Make sure an elder has enough caregiver services. Best home care agencies and Geriatric Care Managers can help with this assessment. Keeping an elder informed is the best way to combat resistance to care. Get therapeutic support for this life change from a GCM or through a referral to a counselor who can best support you. Ask your employer or GCM for info about an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) your employer may have that can compensate you for time spent coordinating your parent’s care.
Make sure their financial portfolio is in order. Call on a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) to review an elder’s portfolio and make recommendations to ensure it is well managed. Ensure good bill pay services are in order. Power of Attorney for Finance is in order. Set up weekly budget for an elder and caregiver expense method. This takes the stress out of money for the elder and the Care Team so they can focus on receiving services, care.
Make sure their health care directives are in order. From an Advance Directive for Health Care to make an elder’s health care decisions as needed to a POLST (Physician’s Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) which is a medical order from their Primary Care Physician (PCP). This will save confusion and ensure the elder’s health care wishes will be enacted. This helps elders manage the stress of what occurs when they are ill. And helps adult children feel confident they can do so. Call a trusted local probate attorney to accurately execute the documents you need.
Create as much beauty and fun as you can in an elder’s life from fresh flowers to music to helping them clear clutter so they can think more clearly. Make sure they are eating well and help coordinate caregiver meal preparation as needed. Make sure they get out of the house and into the community as much as they desire. Make sure their medications are well organized so they can focus on enjoying themselves rather than managing symptoms and side effects. Let them know how much they mean to you. Create a daily routine for them. Take pictures. Mix it up.
Our elders have access to some of the best doctors and hospitals in the world. And yet, their quality of care and life still need to be vastly improved through these types of tips and services. All of us can start this work today in the way we approach our elders and what we focus on. By focusing on quality of life, we improve it.
By Tara Bradley