Caring for the elderly in their home – what you need to remember

June 16, 2018
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As any carer for the elderly in nursing or residential homes will know, there are many key physical issues to consider for every patient. But when you’re caring for them in their own home, even if they’re a parent or close relative, there are important things to remember that go beyond their health care and personal care.

A carer’s instinct will prioritise the physical needs of any elderly patient, such as medication or physio care. But other, more simple, needs can get overlooked, and carers should be aware of them. While Helpline are able to provide a friendly voice at a time of need for your elderly patient, it’s down to you as the carer to ensure the more subtle human touch is always there.

It’s not all about you

When you’re caring for any elderly person in their home, it’s important to make sure they’re treated just like any other human being. This sounds obvious, but they are someone’s relative, close or otherwise – they may even be a close relative of your own – and they deserve the same attention as anyone else.

Caring for the elderly is not an easy job. In fact, it’s one of the hardest jobs to do and it can get overwhelming at times. Each patient has different needs that require time and dedication. So while your own life may be filled with the tasks of daily life, in that moment your personal schedule should never overtake the needs of those you’re caring for.

It’s the little things that add up, and any shortcuts or timesavers you introduce as a carer can have a big impact on your patient. Your sole focus should be on them, providing the complete care they need and the attention they deserve. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them.

Restore dignity and confidence

Aging is a natural process that none of us can stop. But your patient has reached a stage in their life that’s left them with limited ability. They rely on outside help and carers to do basic, physical tasks that not so long ago, they were able to do with ease.

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They may be fiercely independent people who have led an active life, and are now heavily reliant on carers like you to help them carry out basic personal hygiene. This can cause resentment and even anger, but it will also cause sadness, vulnerability, and a loss of self confidence and dignity.

As a carer, part of your role is to help them restore that self confidence and dignity. Try not to rush in and do everything for them as if they’re completely unable. If they can to do things on their own, show them respect and give them support in helping them achieve what they’re able to.

Be patient with your patient

At times, any care you give to your elderly patient can sometimes be met with resistance. We’ve all been in the situation where we don’t want to do something, or have something done for us, but we’re able to communicate this effectively. Your patient may not have the ability or the skills to do this.

Patience is a key skill for you as a carer, and understanding the needs of your patient goes a long way to providing the effective care they need. Listening to them and taking the time to understand their issues will help keep them—and you—calm. When you understand their limitations as a patient, your patient/carer relationship will strengthen.

By building your relationship, over time you’ll learn a lot about each other. And by simply listening to them, not just about their ailments or demands, you’ll gain their trust and mutual respect. But always remember to retain privacy and discretion in any conversations between you.

Maintain trust and reliability

Trust is an important aspect to any patient/carer relationship. Elderly patients, many of whom will have lived independently for many years, like, prefer, and often need routine in their days. So earning the trust of your patient with your reliability and ability to keep to set schedules are key traits for any carer.

Your reliability should never come into question by your elderly patients. Unreliable behaviour or an unconcerned approach to their care, can lead to concerns that you may not have their best interest at heart. While this is unfounded, unreliability can have a significant effect.

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If you’re late or don’t show up, this could prove disastrous for your patient. While it could cause feelings of abandonment or anxiety, it could also lead to patients attempting to self-medicate, or cause injury or harm while trying to care for themselves. Elderly patients will come to rely on you and the care you provide, so it’s crucial to maintain the level of trust and reliability they need.

Provide a good quality of life

While there’s not much we can do about the aging process, it’s down to you as a carer to ensure your patient has a good quality of life wherever possible. Many elderly patients will have the option to move to a residential care home, but will often resolutely refuse it. Staying in their own home is a sign of continuing independence and few will want to give that up.

But our homes weren’t designed to be full time care homes. So as a carer, you need to help them create an environment that will best serve them for the care they need. But while elderly people might rely on home care for their physical needs, this can lead to strong feelings of loneliness or isolation in many patients.

The ability to see friends or go to the shops can be crucial to good mental health, but your patient’s mobility may prevent this. You will often be their only link to the outside world. As a carer, improving quality of life for the elderly in their own home, and helping them lead a happy life is crucial, and is one of the most important things you can do.

While home caring is a challenge, it’s not without its rewards. Simple communication, reliability, and respect are often key factors in making your job easier. And by doing this, you’ll be able to care for your elderly patient in a way and manner they deserve.