Caring for Aging Parents At Home--5 Benefits for Your Loved One

Why is home care great for your parents?

We all know that caring for the elderly at home provides a sense of security and independence that helps them maintain a healthier self-image longer. Seniors who receive care in their own home or the homes of their children tend to live longer and feel more content.

That's old news. But what about the hidden benefits? The ones that make you say "Wow, I never thought of that!" Well, good news for caregivers.

All of your hard work has more benefits than just the ones you hear over and over again from doctors and those non-caregiving siblings. Here are five stellar reasons that caring for the elderly at home is great for your loved ones:

1. First Line of Defense

Even the most superb skilled nursing facilities can't afford to have a staff member assigned for every single resident. That means that even though problems are noticed, they aren't always noticed right away. Sometimes, residents may not mention small issues because they don't want to add to the load of nurses and aides that seem overworked as it is.

The bad news is that a loved one living with you may not feel any qualms at all about bugging you about every little problem, from a minor lost button to a more serious headache. BUT...because you do know about these things, you handle them according to priority. As in, the priority that YOU consider to be important.

In the nursing home, that missing button from a favorite blouse is going to be relegated to the bottom of the list of things to do. It isn't as important as feeding, changing, cleaning, medicating and caring in general for the physical well-being of all the residents.

 However, that button could cause agitation in someone with dementia or Alzheimer's. That agitation can lead to a sense of unrest even if they have forgotten why they were upset originally, and by the end of the day, they may be displaying behavioral issues that lead to them receiving extra medication to calm them down. That extra medication can easily be avoided by taking five minutes to sew the button back on.

As a home caregiver, you will learn to read those cues automatically. You will know when a physical, mental or environmental issue can escalate and take steps to remedy it before it gets out of control.

2. One-on-One Care and Support

Similar to being the first line of defense in preventing calamities, you are also the eyes, ears and nose when it comes to maladies and symptoms. This is one of the reasons that caregivers should not just know how to do basic care. They should also be up-to-date on First Aid and CPR. The steps that a caregiver takes in the moments before paramedics arrive can be what saves lives.

As well as emergencies, you are the person to spot subtle symptoms that your loved one may not mention. You are also there to notice any mood changes, and to offer your shoulder to cry on, or just a sympathetic ear. As much as staff members in a nursing facility would love to be able to just sit and talk with an upset resident, it isn't allowed.

If there are more people in the home, then that is an even bigger support system. Someone is sure to notice when an elderly loved one is not acting like themselves, or when they look unusually tired or feverish.

 Keep an eye out throughout the day for little signs and changes. Prompt action can stop a potential illness in its tracks. Caregiving should involve more than just helping your loved one eat and dress.

3. Laughter is Still the Best Medicine

Have you ever tried to tell a funny story that happened to you a few weeks ago to someone who wasn't there at the time? Chances are, unless you are a master storyteller, then something is lost over that time-span. You just can't make it seem as funny to the listener.

Well, that happens when families visit nursing homes too. They typically fall into this awkward pattern of silence vs small-talk. When they try to tell a funny story or describe an event, it may come across as stale and forced. Sometimes the story might be told well, but because the resident wasn't there they don't understand it, and will just politely nod or change the subject.

When your loved one lives at home with you, they are still part of the family. They get to see, hear and experience everything right when it happens. And that makes a huge difference. It isn't just being able to see the joke that make it funnier and more therapeutic--its the overall sense of inclusion. In the moment, not as an afterthought when you are just trying to think of something to say.

4. The Little Things

Chances are that you know your loved one very well. You know that they love drinking a coke in the evening, or that they prefer listening to the Beach Boys rather than Gospel. Unfortunately, a lot of nursing facilities are owned by people who know aging, but who don't realize that the elderly change with each generation that enters. Not to mention that each elder is a different person altogether.

I saw my share of seniors who would rather go to the movies than play Bingo, who wished they could order a pizza rather than eat "home-cooking" and who would rather read a smutty romance novel rather than a large-print edition of Christian fiction. And they despised the one-size fits all approach to the standard nursing home.

At home your loved one is less-likely to get "what old people like", and more likely to get what they personally like and need. They are going to be a lot happier in a place where they can watch an action-thriller on television, sleep until ten, and be themselves...not just an "old people".

5. Easier Transition

Although I endorse caregiving at home, there are always limits. When an elderly person endangers their caregivers, becomes a risk to their own safety, or when a caregiver can no longer safely provide care, it is time to consider  the next step in long-term care.

The transition from home to a facility will never be easy on anyone, but prolonging it until it is an absolute necessity can be beneficial for everyone involved:

  • Allows family members more close bonding time before separation.
  • Builds more recent memories
  • Helps grandchildren or great-grandchildren build relationships
  • Allows caregivers to determine the best type of LTC needed (not as an overnight decision)
  • More time to for the elderly to mentally prepare themselves 

Too many times, a family member will get a call that something has happened to their loved one, and they have to immediately make a decision as to where and how to place them in LTC. Often, the senior may not need the level of care in these facilities, just supervision by a family member or in-home caregiver.

It can be a shock for the family to learn that suddenly mom or dad needs to be moved to a 'home'. It is just as unsettling for their loved one. They may have to deal with a sudden illness or injury, the loss of their independence and displacement from their familiar surroundings. Caring for them in your home, even if it is for a short time, can provide a buffer between their independent life and that of living permanently in a facility.

Plus, you will have more time to spend with them everyday, making new memories and strengthening relationships. Something that is hard, if not impossible to do once they are permanently placed in LTC.