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Caring for aging parents, from incontinence to independence

Caring for aging parents

November is National Family Caregiver’s Month, a time to honor those who devote their time and energy to keeping their families safe and happy. This guest post from Mica features ways of caring for aging parents, including how to organize medications, deal with incontenance, and help them maintain their independence.

Geriatric incontinence affects over 13 million Americans, and common symptoms include becoming withdrawn and depressed, as more than half of seniors with incontinence would rather lie or say nothing in an effort to hide it. However, as a caregiver of someone living with incontinence, there are a few simple steps you can take to help seniors confidently manage their incontinence and maintain their independence and quality of life.

Providing better ways of caring for aging parents

Seniors with incontinence may feel embarrassed about their condition due to the stigma attached to having accidents and wearing pull-ups – 54% of the time, even too embarrassed to discuss incontintence with friends or family. Instead of participating in their regular social activities, they may find it easier to stay home to avoid the pressure of preventing or cover up accidents.

As a caregiver, leaving elders on their own for elongated periods of time can be a daunting source of anxiety, especially when they need specific assistance around the clock. However, you can gain peace of mind by organizing and increasing the efficiency of your care to ensure they’re covered when you’re not around.

Organize and manage medications

On average, seniors fill between nine to 13 prescriptions a year, with the typical senior taking five prescription medications daily. All of which increases the risk of medical issues as a result of incorrect or inconsistent dosages.

To help organize both yourself and your parents, store all of their prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications in one place. In the process of doing so, read the labels of each medication to see if there are any that treat the same conditions and toss any that are past expiry.

Also, have an up-to-date list of your folks’ medications handy. That way you protect against any adverse interactions from the specific combination of pills.

Next, clearly document what time of day to take each pill and if it needs to be taken with food, for easy reference. Perhaps you organize the meds into a chart that they can mark off after taking each dose.

To further simplify your parent’s medication schedule, presort their medications for the week in a labeled pill organizer. Be proactive about medication refills too so they never run out.

Manage incontinence

If your parent has incontinence, keeping them dry, sanitary and comfortable is crucial for providing proper care.

While it seems obvious, the following is crutial. Make sure they have correctly-fitting protective underwear at all times to help them avoid leaks.

To accomplish this, monitor them regularly to see if they need a more absorbent product than the current pull-ups or if they need to change sizes with weight gain and loss.

Ensure quick and efficient cleanups by dressing your parents in comfortable clothing that’s easy to remove and change. Also, use chux or bed pads to protect their mattress and other furniture, and keep sanitary gloves and wipes in easily accessible locations.

To further avoid accidents, make it a habit—for yourself and your parents—of checking every few hours if they need to go to the bathroom. That’s as opposed to waiting until it’s urgent.

While incontinence can drastically alter daily routines, it’s important when caring for aging parents to help them maintain a healthier lifestyle, whether they live with you or not. For example, you might do one or more of the following:

  • Join them for regular excercise, such as daily walks
  • Provide healthier meals than before; exclude common incontinence triggers, such as caffeine, spicy foods, and refined sugar
  • Act as a calm, supportive and trustworthy figure so your parents feel comfortable telling you about accidents instead of trying to hide them

When it comes to incontinence, let them know everything is alright and assist them with getting cleaned up. This reassurance and support is integral for the healthy self-esteem of your eldery loved one.

Caregiver family

Prepare them to be on their own

If your parents will be alone for any period of time, the first thing you should do is make sure they’re capable of independently caring for themselves. Or, if that’s not an option, arrange for the proper assistance to be in place while you’re away.

If they’re able to spend time alone, make sure to equip them with everything they will need. Provide them with access to a working phone and other frequently used items, for example.

If they have limited mobility, keep a mobile phone, as well as the TV remote and anything else they might need, within close reach. If your parent does need to move around the homestead while you’re gone, try to make it as easy as possible for them to get around the space.

That means removing any obstacles from the path to the bathroom, bed, kitchen, or other areas they frequent, to reduce the risk of falling. For additional precaution, consider purchasing a Life Alert necklace or similar device for quick access to help in an emergency. Wearable ones are readily available.

Obviously, leave their medication where they can easily find and reach it. Lastly, stock up on pre-made meals, snacks, and beverages so they won’t have to cook or go out on their own if doing so is difficult for them.

Caring for aging parents: Simplification is the key

All of the above tips have one thing in common: They aim to take the complications out of senior life, whenever possible.

Taking the time and effort to improve the organization and efficiency of care of your older parent will help you both immensely. It can make your life easier as a carer and reduce anxieties from your loved one’s mind.

Ensure there is a quality system in place to provide the necessary assistance to your aging loved ones and help them maintain a good quality of life. A happy life is a full one.

Mica Phillips is Director of Urology at Aeroflow Healthcare.

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