Today’s families are often scattered far and wide. We don’t all live close enough to our relatives to be able to pop in every day, or even every week.
So how can we manage the desire of families to be supportive to older friends and relatives from a distance, so that everyone can avoid constantly worrying about each other?
Most people want to stay living in their own homes for as long as possible, even as they become less mobile or start to struggle with physical or mental health.
There are plenty of practical ideas and tools to help with independent living. Ramps, handrails, walk-in showers, stair lifts and mobility vehicles are just a few of the possibilities. There are some useful guides available for help in the home, and there are specialist retailers who can provide really useful tools, like grabbers and easy-to-use kitchen utensils.
It’s worth contacting the local authority and asking social services to carry out a needs assessment if someone is starting to struggle. If the individual in question has little in the way of capital, the local authority may help with costs, and at the least, they may have a list of recommended suppliers.
It’s important to physical and mental health to eat well and stay hydrated. You might like to look at the meal delivery services available. There may well be lunch clubs and day centres that could be a valuable place to get together with others for a pleasant meal, and quite often transport can be arranged too.
It could also be worth talking about using alerting and monitoring technology to stay safe as well as the option of inviting carers in a couple of times a day or as a live-in help.
It’s hard having strangers in your home and feeling you’re being watched, but it could avoid emergency hospital admissions or even having to leave a loved home altogether. And it will help to give peace of mind to the family at a distance.
While some enjoy their own company, very few would choose to be left alone completely. With loneliness recently compared to being as bad for health as 15 cigarettes a day, it’s a challenge that as families we want to avoid.
The simplest answer is to pick up the phone, regularly.
For the more technologically enabled, Skype and WhatsApp are brilliant ways of communicating, with the added bonus of being able to see faces.
That will help everyone to be assured of each other’s welfare.
If all parties are amenable, you could look at living together. It’s a major challenge though, with everyone involved having to adapt to a new way of living. It certainly works for some families, but it’s a huge responsibility for those who may now become carers.
It’s by no means a done deal, but there may come a day when it’s better to move into a care or nursing home, where care is professional and there when you need it.
Now the question is where to look for a home? Somewhere in the older person’s current area might be the obvious choice, as friends and neighbours could visit, and anyone that can still get out and about will know where they want to know.
On the other hand, moving closer to family offers the opportunity for closer relationships at an important time in life.
Distance can bring feelings of great responsibility and guilt when an older person starts to need more support.
Do you stay apart and respect each other’s space? Do you move closer together? Every family has its own answer, and there’s plenty to talk about honestly along the way.
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