The ageing process begins relatively slowly. Nobody can be sure at the age it really starts because we’re all individual and experience life and progression at different stages. Overall, however, when the physical effects of ageing start to kick in, they can start to drastically affect the day to day life of the person concerned.
Of course, ageing is an inevitable part of life. It is something we cannot avoid, but that doesn’t mean we have to succumb to ageing with a negative approach. What we can do is put into place measures to make life easier, and to maintain independence for as long as possible.
In order to ascertain the best possible plan, we need to really understand what ageing does first and foremost.
The effects of ageing include:
In the healthcare world, there are two terms which are used in terms of the care given to the elderly – ADL and IADL.
ADL is activities of daily living, such as using the toilet, bathing, etc. IADL is instrumental activities of daily life, e.g. cleaning and being independent around the house.
The Emotional Side of Ageing
It is very upsetting and quite scary to suddenly notice that you are struggling to do the tasks which once came so easily to you. For instance, if a person suddenly notices that they can’t clean the house quite so well because of mobility issues, or they notice that they’re struggling to get in and out of the bath, they might feel embarrassed or scared to tell anyone. In this case, some people may continue to struggle and keep it all quiet, but this increases the risk of injury, via a fall or other accident.
Ageing is an upsetting process to go through. We all think we’re going to remain young forever, but it’s simply not the case. The ageing process doesn’t have to be something extremely negative and something to be endured, but it does need to be managed in order to allow that person to continue living their most independent life possible, for as long as possible.
Of course, there is the emotional side of the family to think about too. It is never pleasant to watch your parent age. You think they’re going to be around forever, frozen in time just as they were when you were young. As your parent ages, the tables almost begin to flip. Once upon a time, your parents looked after you, but as they become older, you have to look after them more and more. It’s a strange dynamic to get used to, and it affects both sides of the coin.
As an elderly family members start to notice their day to day life affected by the ageing process, they may become more reliant on family members, e.g. their sons or daughters. In the case, problems can occur. Everyone has busy lives and responsibilities they need to complete, e.g. work, looking after children etc. When an elderly parent starts to show that they need more help, the other family members can feel pressured or frustrated with the process. Because it all feels strange, confusing, and upsetting, people start to not talk about things. When this happens, rifts appear and life becomes difficult.
Understand the ageing process and how it affects a person’s day to day life is therefore vital, but just as vital is knowing the options in terms of long-term care. For instance, care homes, the elderly family member moving in, or a care worker to help them stay in their own home surroundings for longer. It may be that your elderly loved one doesn’t need support at this time, but knowing about the options for the future, and discussing these openly and honestly with your family member is vital. Remember, your elderly loved one is not a child, they are grown adults who need to be listened to and respected.
How the Ageing Process Affects Day to Day Life
So, exactly how do the effects of ageing affect the day to day life of a person? It’s very hard to give a one size fits all answer, because ageing affects everyone in different ways. For instance, you may meet someone who is extremely intelligent, they have no memory problems, they can recall things from decades ago, but they have problems with mobility which makes cleaning and doing the household chores a difficulty. You could also meet someone who can whip around the house with no issues at all, extremely sprightly on their feet, but they have occasional memory problems which mean they forget to take their medication on time.
It’s important to understand that ageing isn’t a set process, and it affects every single person in a different way. For that reason, understanding individual needs and having an independent approach to care is the only way to move forward.
A person can become extremely frustrated when they can’t do something, and this can cause them to become low in mood. Depression and low mood are very common in the elderly, and a lot of this is down to the ageing process and the difficulties it poses. Being able to do everything and then suddenly noticing that you struggle with tasks you consider to be easy is very hard, and it can dent confidence levels to an extreme level.
An elderly person might also want to remain in their home for as long as possible, to be within their own surroundings and maintain as much of their own independence as they possibly can. There are not many elderly people who actually want to go into a care home, probably because of the stigma attached to it, and there are not that many elderly people who want to move in with their grown-up children because they worry about becoming a burden. In that case, staying in their own home and perhaps utilising at-home care is the single best way to move forward.
The ageing person doesn’t render a person useless. It doesn’t mean that particular person is suddenly reverting back to childhood and they cannot do anything for themselves. Remember, this is a person who has lived through wars, conflict, troubled times, happy times, childbirth, working issues, money problems, and they’re still fighting. They should be respected and listened to at all times. Talking down to an elderly person is the single worst thing you can do.
Look at it this way – perhaps they already feel quite embarrassed or distressed that they can’t get in and out of the bath as well as they used to, or they’re shocked and upset that they’re struggling to go to the toilet as easily. They’re going to worry about what is happening, be embarrassed to tell anyone, and not want to think about the future and what it means. Put yourself in their place and consider how that might feel. In that case, talking down to someone and lecturing them on what they should do is the single most damaging thing you can do for their confidence and self-worth.
Because in the end, that’s what ageing does when handled in the wrong way – it robs a person of their confidence, their independence, and the way they see themselves. It destroys relationships and causes rifts.
Of course, if a quality care package is put into place whenever needed, ageing is not the bleak scenario we’ve just described. When an elderly person feels listened to, supported, and happy with the choices that have been made with their input, the ageing process is simply a part of life. It is a time to relax, to spend time with family, to watch children grow up. This is the way that ageing should be approached, not the problem-ridden, confusing, and terrifying scenario we just talked about.
Care Options For The Elderly
There are many care options which pertain to elderly care, however because we’re talking about support with day to day tasks, there are three main choices:
The first step in elderly care is really about a care worker. The reason for this is because care workers can help a variety of different problems, and will have an individual approach to each person they have on their care roster. For example, one elderly person might need help with a lot of day to day activities, such as bathing, taking medications, household chores, and meal preparation. These are all things which a care worker can help with. Another elderly person might simply need someone to help them clean the house and remember to take medication on time. They might also want a little companionship coming into the house on a daily basis. Again, this is something a care worker can do.
The care worker options are preferable in many cases because it maintains the independence of the elderly person for much longer and it allows them to get the help they need with day to day tasks, without taking drastic steps. Most elderly people want to stay in their own homes, and while ever that is possible, it should be done. A care worker gives the total peace of mind to ensure that day to day tasks are completed safely, and that someone is regularly checking on your elderly loved one, to see they are fine and dandy.
The other two options on the list are usually reserved for when the ageing process becomes quite acute and the individual is finding it hard or unsafe to stay in their own home. These options will not be the first ports of call. Some families want their elderly loved ones to move into the home and be around to watch the kids grow up, and also simply to have someone there to check they’re okay and their day to day needs are taken care of. This is a personal decision. Some families do not want that, and some elderly people don’t want that either. It depends on the family bond, the closeness, and the day to day responsibilities that family members have.
A care home is the single final resort. Most elderly people have reservations about care homes and some even flatly refuse. If this is the case, their wishes must be respected, unless there is a firm medical or safety reason otherwise and in this case, discussion must still go ahead. Of course, moving into a care home is not going to be the case because someone is starting to notice problems with day to day living, and is more of a concern when someone has medical issues which need around the clock care, or someone to be very close by at all times.
Whichever care option you and your loved one go for it has to be mutual. You must discuss all options with your loved one and come to a decision together, which they are happy and comfortable with, and one which you are equally as comfortable with. Care costs are much lower than most people think, and if the outcome means a happier and safer way of life, it’s more than worth it.