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How to Assess Your Elderly Parent's Daily Caregiving Needs

Added on March 16, 2018 by Lydia_Chan

How to Assess Your Elderly Parent's Daily Caregiving Needs | elder man with cane

Hiring a caregiver is a wonderful way to improve your elderly parent's quality of life while also managing caregiving expenses. However, without a clear vision of your parent's needs, a caregiver can't make the best use of her time. As the closest family member, it's up to you to assess and communicate your parent's daily caregiving needs.

Assessing daily needs isn't complicated, but it does require you to be thorough. You need to observe all of your parent's daily routines so you can identify the tasks she needs help with. The best way to do this is to spend a few days living with your parent and monitoring as she moves through her daily life.

PBS's Checklist of Activities of Daily Living is a helpful resource for starting to assess your parent's needs. It walks you through daily tasks that everyone must accomplish, like dressing, managing medications, and housework. As you approach tasks that your parent needs help with, make a note of how much assistance is required. For some tasks, she may need someone to take over completely. Other tasks may require assistance from another person, while some just need prompting. You can optimize a caregiver's time by encouraging independence where possible. Checklists are a great tool for allowing seniors to maintain independence in tasks where they're mostly competent but have trouble remembering. For example, you can hang a daily schedule of medications or a checklist of monthly bills with information on how to pay them. That way, the caregiver's time can be focused on the tasks where your parent needs more extensive help.

A daily care plan should also address nutritional needs. According to the National Council on Aging, malnutrition is a common problem for older adults, even when they have the resources to afford a healthy diet. If your parent has specific nutritional needs outlined by her doctor or struggles to plan and prepare a nutritionally balanced diet, providing the caregiver with a meal plan may be the answer. By creating a meal plan, you can address your parent's nutritional needs while also taking dietary preferences into consideration.

As you assess needs, consider your parent's physical capabilities. Just because she can complete a task independently doesn't mean that it's safe. Perhaps your mother's arm brushes the stove top when she reaches for the controls, she has to use a stool to reach upper cupboards, or she struggles to maintain balance getting in and out of the shower. Maintaining a safe home environment for aging in place usually requires home modifications. But since seniors are often reluctant to admit waning ability, it's up to their children to step in and make changes.

For most seniors, the bathroom and kitchen are the most dangerous rooms of the house. If you can only afford limited home modifications, these are the rooms to focus on. Grab bars are one of the simplest ways to prevent slips and falls when using the shower and toilet, while new appliances and reorganized cupboards can enable your parent to cook safely despite physical limitations. Improving lighting throughout the house accommodates diminishing vision, and swapping plush carpets and area rugs for low-pile carpeting and hard floors mitigates fall risk in living areas. In addition to interior modifications, make sure your parent can enter and exit the house safely by creating a stepless entry and adding motion lighting to the home's exterior.

Caregiving is an incredible resource for helping seniors age in the place they're most comfortable—their own home. However, a caregiver's effectiveness is limited by the tools at their disposal. By providing a caregiver with a full picture of your parent's daily needs, you can ensure the highest quality of care possible.

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