The American Baby Boomer generation is getting close to retirement age, and this brings with it different dynamics when it comes to taking care of oneself into the golden years. For most of human history and in cultures around the world, multiple generations of a family would live under the same roof. This meant that grandparents, adult children, aunts, uncles, and children could all support each other in various ways as part of one family unit. In America today, however, cultural practices have changed, and most families are now spread over large parts of the country. This means that beloved elderly family members may find themselves alone or isolated from possible support systems. Let’s discuss some steps that your family can take now to prevent a beloved elder from becoming an “elder orphan.”
Help to build a social network for the seniors in your life
Whether it’s a weekly card game, a trip to church, going to a senior center, or joining friends for dinner, social interaction is a one of the most powerful ways to keep a person mentally, socially, and spiritually healthy. As people get older and it gets harder to get out and about, these social interactions may dwindle. This can also be the case when a spouse passes away, adult children have to move away for work, or grown grandchildren go off to college - all of these can combine to leave an elderly relative alone most of the time. Here are some ways to preemptively build a senior’s social network before they potentially become isolated:
- Look into senior-friendly activities in the Philadelphia area that your relative may enjoy; this is a great way to escape the monotony of the day-to-day routine.
- Use Skype, FaceTime, or other live video software to stay in touch when relatives move away or go out of town. This may take a little upfront effort such as teaching Grandma how to use a tablet, but it will be well worth the time.
- Use all available resources in the area (neighbors, pastors, friends) to check in on an elderly family member, sometimes unannounced. Something as simple as a weekly phone call can give an isolated senior something to look forward to, but there are few substitutes for person-to-person visits. Regular visits (whether planned or spontaneous) can provide a great opportunity to check on the physical and mental health of an older relative living alone. Which leads us to our next point...
Consider finding professional help for the seniors you love
Subtle signs may exist that a beloved older family member may be struggling to accomplish daily tasks. For instance, changes in personal hygiene (such as wearing the same clothes over and over again, body odor, unkempt hair, etc) might indicate that a person is getting forgetful, or is physically unable to accomplish certain tasks. Other indicators might be empty cupboards, or rotting/expired food. If you begin to notice signs that a beloved elder is struggling to accomplish Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), then it’s probably time to consider hiring professional help. There are various services that improve quality of life for seniors, ranging from adult day cares to in home care. (To learn how the costs of different types of senior care compare, read this blog.)
Pennsylvania Agency of Nurses is a nurse-owned, nurse-operated home care agency servicing families in the greater Philadelphia area. We specialize in competent, compassionate in home care, and helping your family craft the appropriate senior care solution for your particular situation (view client testimonials here). If someone in your family has potential to become an elder orphan, please contact us today to discuss how we can become part of the solution for your family.