It’s natural to have concerns about your parents’ health and well-being as they get older. Millions of adult children are caring for their elderly parents and we know it isn't easy. We want to help you to allow your parents to stay independent in their own home.
So how can you help your elderly parents?
Help with housework and gardening
Sometimes it can be hard to keep on top of all the cleaning and gardening that comes with owning a home. Your elderly parents may not be as mobile as they once were. Or perhaps they don't have the mental capacity and energy to keep up with everything that needs doing.
It’s important to look out for signs that your parents aren't acting as their usual selves. This could be things such as a clean house becoming dirty more often, or weeds being ignored in the garden. You can help them by making sure their house is organised and decluttered and their garden tended to. Working out a cleaning and gardening rota between family and friends could help your parents stay on top of things. We also have some tips for parents who want to stay independent when gardening.
Make sure they have transportation
As your parents get older, it may not be suitable for them to drive themselves any more. It's reassuring to know they have transportation should they need it. This could be in the form of a local bus, a trusted taxi service, or a helpful friend.
According to the Gov UK website, ‘Bus passengers aged over 65 or with a disability have been entitled to travel free of charge on any off-peak local service in England since 2007, thanks to the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme.’ You can apply for a pass here. It offers a sense of freedom, as your parents can still travel at their leisure with the help of others.
It is of course important that your parents can contact you if they need to. It is likely that you will be the first person they call if they need help. Make sure they have a mobile phone with good battery life and enough minutes to make calls. You can see recommendations for phones here.
You should also make sure your phone is always on ring or vibrate so that you don’t miss a call, in case of emergencies. It's advised to have a backup number for your parents to call if they need help and can’t reach you. This could be a neighbour, family friend or an adult grandchild.
Make sure their home is safe and accessible
Adding changes to your parent's home can really help to make it a safer environment. For example, you can add handrails in the shower to make sure they don’t slip when getting in and out. Adapting a home to be practical and accessible is important. For example, moving regularly used kitchen items, such as plates and mugs, to easier to reach cupboards can make a big difference. It’s also good to check any rugs and make sure they're secured and don't offer a risk of your parent's slipping on them. Improving lighting in areas that could be a potential hazard is helpful. Adding light to an outside route to empty the bin, or a hallway at night time, can be a brilliant change to make.
Support them with their cooking
If your parents are still confident in the kitchen, independent living is a lot easier to achieve. If they're still able to prepare and cook meals for themselves, we have some tips to help them remain able to do this. This involves making simple meals with less ingredients, including pasta, soup and salads. You could also help by preparing meals that can be frozen and reheated for your parents.
Personal alarms can offer both you and your parents reassurance. These devices provide 24/7 aid, providing emergency service assistance in case of falls or accidents. Age UK's Personal Alarms have been praised for keeping the elderly independent. They can reassure you by providing solutions for those "just in case" moments.
Be there emotionally
Let them know you are there to help with their emotional needs. It's important to be contactable over the phone, but are you emotionally there for your parents? As we get older, we become more dependant on others, which can feel unsettling. So, it's good to let your parents know you are there for them to talk to and it could be helpful for them to talk to others. A good idea is to encourage socialising with friends. Great ways to meet new people are through doing some volunteering or by learning a new skill. It's vital to encourage your parents to remain active and social. This will benefit both their mental and physical health.
If you still need some reassurance for peace of mind, the Age UK Personal Alarm Service can make sure your parents have a way to call for help if they need to.