Caring For Elderly with Disability (Especially as a Parent with Young Children)
Updated: Feb 23
For many parents, especially those working and with young children, it may be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to personally provide constant care for their elderly loved ones, such as a parent. Assisted care may therefore be necessary. One consideration is of course a care home. However, in many countries, good care homes may be scarce or non-existent. In this instance, if they are lucky enough to be financially comfortable, then care is often outsourced.
Even in the event of finding a half decent care home, the consensus is that such a scenario still requires family members to regularly visit in-order to help ensure a level of standard as regarding the care one will receive. Such facilities depend on rotating shifts and not all staff members are likely to have the same level of moral standards and/or professional efficiency. Often clients who are not visited regularly may be paid less attention to.
If outsourcing care for an elderly with disability, below are the 3 pillars of support one should take into account. These are valid for most disabilities but for the benefit of this article, we will use the example of Alzheimer’s:
PILLAR 1 - Daily Care
If one does not have loved ones who are available to care around the clock, as is more often the case, then this might be the most primary and therefore, important concern and hence, need. If your loved one will not be, or does not have the option to be, in a care home, then live-in 24/7 care is essential. It is this live-in maid that will cover care for the day-to-day functions; from prepping food, to help dressing one (possibly bathing) and provide them with company.
In relation to the above, help with hygiene may be necessary. In other terms, for bathing for instance. A live-in may not be able to cope with physically aiding the elderly, either due to weight, disability or size (if he is a tall or large man and she, a small woman, for instance). Nevertheless, there are options to provide a loved one with a carer to visit 2-3 times a week. These depend on either private medical care organisations or certified individuals. Along with a live-in maid this should cover one’s daily/weekly living needs.
There are various ways to improve life around the house, be it for bathroom and bathing purposes or simply physically supporting one to move about. As the condition deteriorates one will adjust these. Nevertheless, it is best to look further down the road to foresee the more common complications that will be faced. I was advised that in the event of having to make actual alterations in a home for mobility - the conversion of a bathtub into an accessible shower for instance - there are often many government schemes whereby the state covers 40-50% of the cost. This particular disability along with many others are indeed eligible, so long that the government actually offers such support schemes. Not all do.
PILLAR 2 - Health Care
It is quite crucial to have a good GP. The individual’s physical health should be assessed by way of a thorough examination and blood works. This will offer a clear picture of his or her needs. For instance, if they are well nourished and hydrated and if they need any supplements. A geriatric pathologist may be useful but I believe any good GP will suffice.
If such a service is available, one should register their loved one to it. However, In many countries there are no organised medical care services to offer house calls (especially 24/7). In this case, it is useful to try find a very caring doctor (GP) whose clinic offers such a service or who is personally willing to accommodate this need.
In the instance of our example being used of Alzheimer’s, a psychiatrist is also necessary to assess how the deterioration is developing and, of course, to prescribe appropriate medication accordingly. Even in many other deteriorating conditions, doctors are needed to aid in this department. Psychiatrists can play a role for many such illnesses, whether Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression and/or simply coping with the loss of a life-long partner. Sadly, in life, despite perhaps a healthy long marriage, one of the two will go first, making life difficult for the one surviving that loss.
PILLAR 3 - Maintenance and Prevention
From the above, according to one's financial capabilities, many would consider this pillar less important. Obviously, the pillars are in order of priority. One can consider Pillars 1 & 2 as Primary Care and Pillar 3 as Secondary Care. Nevertheless, Pillar 3 can prolong and improve one's life.
If one is unable to exercise and has physical disabilities or even had surgery in the past (for instance, hip replacements), then physio is a luxury that one may wish to consider. Weekly maintenance will help any historic and/or chronic issues. In addition, it will aid in the prevention of other limbs stiffening and decreasing in mobility over time. It is also a brief and regulated form of interaction that may aid with the aspect of boredom elderly individuals living alone often face.
Individuals with Alzheimer's may begin to forget to chew whilst eating as the disease worsens. This can lead to food aspiration over time due to bits of food being swallowed without being chewed or choking at any given moment. An SP will be able to assess one’s ability to chew well and notice differences over time. In some cases, deterioration leads to the individual having to eat food processed in a blender.
In addition to the above (but perhaps less important), a nutritionist can check a person’s weight and review their bloodwork to be able to make dietary recommendations. This is particularly useful to provide instructions for any individual, such as a live-in maid, who cooks on their behalf.