Most people would agree change is an ever-present part of life. As the saying goes, “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is.” But things are evolving faster than ever before, and the changes aren’t limited to just technology. Social dynamics, family priorities, and healthcare realities are all far different now than just a few years ago.
Since “National Grandparents Day” is acknowledged every September, now might be a good time to reassess aging loved ones’ needs. Here are 5 ways families can do so with a focus on recent social changes that factor into care strategies.
Mitigate COVID-19 Risk – The pandemic is a well--acknowledged part of everyday life, but many families haven’t fully evolved their habits to address risk. It’s becoming more apparent that COVID-19 may linger for many months or years with variants posing different levels of threat. Fortunately, certain best practices help mitigate risk to aging loved ones regardless of variant.
While the CDC and medical experts regard vaccination and mask adherence as two of the best ways to prevent COVID-19 spread, other safeguards should become habits for families visiting older loved ones. Young children can be reminded that COVID-19 particularly affects grandparents, so visiting them when sick or symptomatic is unacceptable.
Borrowing from CDC guidelines, families may even assess lifestyle risk factors and adjust accordingly. For example, a couple that returns from a cruise ship vacation might refrain from visiting aging loved ones for two weeks simply as a safety precaution. Or a daughter exposed to an infected coworker might cancel her mother’s annual birthday visit and promise a belated celebration after an appropriate isolation period.
Borrow from Other Cultures – While COVID-19 is top-of-mind for most folks today, other social changes have also affected grandparents and approaches to eldercare. And one of the biggest dynamics today is rooted in financial considerations. Senior care costs have risen dramatically, and professional caregiver services are out of reach for many families.
But who’s to say there aren’t other options? For example, families in many cultures pride themselves on caring for their own elderly members. Not only do they consider it an obligation, but they also value the opportunity. Now might be a good time for younger Americans to work as family caregivers to help aging loved ones while also gaining vocational experience.
Westerners have traditionally valued independence with children leaving the home when reaching adulthood. But a shift toward the family has recently made headway. There’s nothing wrong with younger Americans carving their own paths and pursuing passions. But with economic uncertainty and changing social attitudes, the family-care model found in Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere could also prove a winning strategy for Americans.
Embrace Multi-Generational Households – As stated, some cultures rely on family members to care for aging loved ones, and this practice is gaining steam in the United States. But another tried-and-true care model from around the world is multi-generational living. Under such an arrangement, extended families often live together in a large home.
COVID-19 notwithstanding, the advantages of multi-generational households are many and obvious. Financially, the adult generations can pool resources together and afford a larger house and property. Their combined income and cohabitation efficiencies might also reduce other living expenses, such as food, insurance premiums, and utilities.
More importantly, families can help ensure the safety of grandparents and aging loved ones who would otherwise live alone or be forced to move into assisted living facilities. Some of these seniors do not require significant hands-on care, but they do need some level of supervision and light support. Multi-generational living addresses such needs, while providing affordability and closer family bonds.
Focus on Quality of Life – Americans’ approach to senior care has traditionally been focused on healthcare imperatives. Adult children asked questions like, “Is ‘Dad’ taking his medications and getting his check-ups?” But folks today are also prioritizing quality of life and considering its effects on physical and mental well-being.
Grandparents and aging loved ones are happiest and healthiest when they enjoy stimulating mental and physical activities. Today’s seniors enjoy an array of recreational and cultural options courtesy of accommodating businesses and institutions. In fact, many museums, art galleries, and zoos have special days designated for the elderly. And some seniors are even enrolling in community college classes to pursue their passions.
Leverage Technology – While rapid social changes are far reaching and affect most aspects of life, technological innovation is still front and center. And many of the previously-discussed care strategies incorporate new tools that are widely available to most families and seniors.
For example, COVID-19 risk-mitigation measures rely heavily on social distancing. And convenient, user-friendly tools enable virtual visits with family and connect grandparents to the outside world in a variety of other ways. Not only can an aging relative video chat with her grandchildren, but she might also benefit from a remote doctor’s assessment.
Seniors’ quality of life has also been greatly improved in recent years thanks to affordable and accessible technology. “Grandpa” can now have a variety of restaurant entrees delivered directly to his doorstep via smartphone apps, such as Uber Eats and Postmates. And his smartphone or tablet also affords access to endless books and entertainment options. There’s no need for aging relatives to live in isolation in the age of Wi-Fi and smart devices.
Finally, safety issues that typically affect grandparents and older adults can be addressed through the latest “personal emergency response solution” (PERS) technology. LifeFone is a leading provider of PERS systems and can customize solutions based on individual needs and risk factors. In addition to offering fall/emergency-alert tools, LifeFone has “on-the-go” options for seniors who venture outside the home. And LifeFone can even compliment family care efforts with daily check-in calls, medication reminder technology, and home alarm systems!
At the end of the day, society’s rapid evolution is hard to keep up with, but it can also work toward the benefit of aging loved ones. While new technologies present obvious health, safety, and quality-of-life benefits, evolving social priorities might also prove helpful. And changing attitudes among younger Americans open doors to multi-generational living and family-caregiver opportunities.
If you’re concerned about the safety and well-being of a vulnerable family member, friend, or patient, call LifeFone today to learn about affordable and flexible emergency response solutions!