How to Care for Your Loved Ones in Their Twilight Years


Despite the fact that many older people still exude grace and panache during their later years, there will come a time when help is needed. Aging can be an overwhelmingly scary thing for anyone to go through, yet even the strongest people life can be brought to their knees by failing joints and intensifying pain.

This transition to a more dependent state is not only daunting for your loved one, but may also be for you as a caretaker. Caring for a family member can be very distressing, but with more Americans living beyond 70 than ever before, more children are stepping up and assuming the caretaker responsibility. Thankfully, this has led to increased discussion on how to make this difficult time more comfortable for both parties.

The Importance of Organization

Just thinking about all that goes into caring for your loved ones can send you into the fetal position. How much medication do they require on a daily basis? What is the current state of their finances? Are they eating enough? What is a colostomy bag?

“The first thing a new caretaker needs to do is compile a master list of absolutely everything that must be done on a daily, weekly and monthly basis,” says experienced caregiver Kelley Hogan. “Organization can do wonders in maintaining a well-oiled machine. It’s the number one thing I tell new caretakers.”

The real key is to establish a routine and stick to it. Nowadays, smart phone apps have made staying on top of things easier than ever, and you can manage important tasks with just a touch of your fingertips.

A Safe Living Space  

Many caretakers are vastly inexperienced when it comes to both the realities and the commitment of taking care of someone. There are several mistakes frequently made, and one of these is an ill-prepared and potentially hazardous living space for your loved one.

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. In fact, every 20 minutes an elderly person dies from a fall. You can avoid becoming part of this statistic by making sure your loved one’s home is outfitted with the proper precautions:

  • Install grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower
  • Eliminate any items that could cause unnecessary tripping such as chairs, wires, lamps and plants
  • Ensure that the home has plenty of light in every room and hallway

One of the smartest senior safety methods to consider is an alert system. These small devices can immediately alert authorities in case of emergencies, and can genuinely be the difference between life and death. Providing your loved one with a safe living environment will not only protect them, but will also give you more peace of mind knowing that home is safe and their risk is low.

Clear Communication

A clear head is integral to caring, and communication is one most important things to be aware of. In these delicate times, it can be a detriment to everyone involved to become closed off. Are you sharing the responsibility of caring with anyone else? If so, then establishing your individual roles as caregivers is paramount to a successful routine. This can mean that you handle the finances and medical bills, while whomever is helping can take on the more mundane tasks, like cooking, cleaning and laundry.

It’s also important to communicate directly with your loved one. It can be easy to start to associate caregiving as an unwanted responsibility or chore, which can in turn increase stress levels and cause dissonance in your relationship. Be open, honest, and compassionate with them and the results will speak for themselves.

Take Care of Yourself

Caregiving can be an immensely rewarding experience, but it can also cause a myriad of health problems. Caregivers are prone to increased bouts of stress, muscle problems, depression and anxiety. These intense side effects can lead to an extreme lack of self-care.

Many caregivers try to combat mental and physical exhaustion by turning to drugs and alcohol. Several studies have shown that caregivers use prescription and psychotropic drugs more than non-caregivers do. For some, this is unfortunately just one of the many side effects of being a caregiver. So what can be done to alleviate this type of burden?

The most important rule is to not lose yourself during these tough times. Continue to see your physician as normal and discuss any health problems you may have noticed. There are also many support groups out there for caregivers, and joining these can be hugely beneficial for your morale and motivation.

Further, give yourself time to feel joy; take a night for yourself, plan a getaway, pick up a good book, etc. Don’t shut yourself off from hobbies and activities you once found happiness in. And lastly, have faith in yourself and take comfort in the fact that what you are doing is an incredible thing. Your loved ones are lucky to have you.