Updated: Mar 14
Taking responsibility for the care of an elderly relative at home can be difficult and time-consuming. Many part-time or full-time carers looking after family and friends also work to balance a job of their own. Some may even have children and other family members they are caring for. If you are in a position where you are looking after an elderly relative, here are some of the ways you could make things easier for yourself and for them.
1. Create a Routine
Without a routine, your elderly relative might start to expect more from you than you can give. Let them know the routine you will be following, what else you need to do in the day, and when you expect to be available at home.
This should include any commute to work, or your working hours if you are based from home. You should factor in early on some time for yourself, so that you don’t end up going from week to week without any free time of your own. You should let them know which hours you will not be available, and write it down so they have easy access to the information when needed. If you have other adults in the home, ask them to take on some caring tasks when needed too.
2. Check on Them Briefly and Regularly
Looking after an elderly relative can take up huge amounts of your time. Some of this can be time which is spent keeping them company by sitting together and talking. While this is incredibly valuable time together, it can impact negatively on your health and take up large chunks of otherwise free time. Check on them regularly but briefly to ensure you conserve energy while having the peace of mind they are safe and well.
3. Connect with Others
Try to connect with others who are in a similar situation to you. Not only will this help you to find others who can relate to your challenges, but you will likely be able to find companions for your elderly relative too. This is particularly valuable if the relative you are caring for is becoming lonely or wants to engage in more social activities outside of the house.
You can meet people in person, or through online platforms such as social media or forums for carers. Being clear about what you’re looking for online can make it easier to find likeminded people. For example, are you looking for social events, meet-ups, lessons learned, or just someone to chat with on the phone?
4. Consider the Next Steps
You should start thinking about the next steps for living arrangements as soon as possible. You will need to think about whether the home will be suitable in the long term for your elderly relative, or if adjustments need to be made. Options like assisted living place can provide the ideal place to move on to next, taking some of the pressure off you. Assisted living arrangements can help those unable to live alone to maintain their independence while overcoming the challenges they face.
5. Stay Organized
Keeping things organized can help to maintain order in your home while looking after an elderly relative. This is particularly true if you have other family members living in the house, especially children.
As well as keeping things clean and tidy as much as possible, think about some of the essentials your relative will need and what you can do to make this easier. For example, if they are taking any medication, organize their medication for the week ahead using a pill organizer or similar tool. This will make things easier for you if you need to administer the medication, and easier for them if they take it independently.
6. Make Adjustments as Needed
You might have to adjust some of your life, your timetable, and your home to effectively look after your elderly relative. Some of the most common adjustments which are made to accommodate extra care responsibilities are stair lifts, bath and shower seats, chairs closer to the TV or other items, and different cutlery for eating.
7. Take Care of Yourself Too
It’s impossible to care for other people if you aren’t looking after yourself. Take time each week to relax and find some space for down time and relaxation. Go for a regular massage or spa day, or spend time in nature reading, walking, meditating, or whatever helps you to wind down and find calm.
Focus on getting plenty of nutrition into your diet so that your body has the tools it needs to fight against diseases and illnesses. Find ways to reduce stressors, either by removing them from your life where possible or by finding stress-combatting activities to introduce on a regular basis.
Taking care of an elderly relative, especially when they are living in your home, can be stressful and exhausting. But taking some steps to reduce the workload and worry that often comes with this can help you to look after your relative more effectively while looking after yourself better too.