The creeping prevalence of aging societies isn’t just a challenge for national governments, policymakers, and healthcare providers to solve. It affects everyone who has, or will have, an elder family member or loved one in their lives—and everyone lucky enough to grow old themselves.
Remaining in good health as an older adult requires much more than what medication and treatment alone have to offer. Below are ten pieces of advice, and some accompanying resources, for those who want their loved ones to age as comfortably, independently, and vibrantly as possible.
1. Keep care at home if possible. Try to find care providers who are willing to provide care for your loved one outside a hospital setting and in the home. For some care providers this may mean home visits, for others it could mean telehealth appointments.
2. Coordinate your care. Try to coordinate services among all those providing care for your loved one—both formal and informal. This means everyone from the primary care physician to the person who may come in once a week to clean the house.
3. Make care regimens person centered. Encourage your loved one to make their own decisions about the type of care they receive and when and where they would like to receive it.
4. Enable social inclusion. Create opportunities for your loved one to play an active role in your family and in your community. Isolation can be a major cause of emotional distress for older people.
5. Stay up to date on the latest technology. Keep abreast of new technologies that can improve every aspect of care your loved one receives. These may be as simple as FaceTime appointments with your doctor, or as advanced as safety monitoring systems connected to a coordinated care network.
6. Investigate your insurance options. Explore long term care insurance options in detail and find the one that is right for your situation.
7. Take care of the caregivers. Recognize the challenges inherent in caring for a loved one in need and make use of any resources available to you in these efforts. This may include online support networks, opportunities to spend time away from your loved one, or rejuvenatory activities to help relieve stress and tension.
8. Learn and practice mindful communication. Don’t be afraid to have what can be a tough conversation about end of life care with your loved one. Make use of the tools and resources available online to talk with your loved one about the kind of treatment they receive and where they would like to receive it.
9. Educate yourself. Try to keep up to date with the latest innovations in elder care and best practices in long term care.
10. Create a safe environment. Make sure the environment in which your loved one lives encourages their independence and autonomy, mitigates and risk of injury or harm, and feels like a personalized home environment.
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