For the last few years I have been fortunate to have been involved in the aged care sector and have seen both the lows and highs. Today we live in a world where most of us are living longer thank to more awareness around healthy living, the advancement of better medical technology and of course, the management of ailments that otherwise could have led to our premature deaths only twenty to thirty years ago. But living longer can present a raft of challenges from financial security in retirement to managing the basics of life, getting around and remaining socially connected. All these things, managed well, can provide each of us with a degree of both comfort and security as we move into our latter years.
But, for some, the challenges remain well into our latter years. For example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a lower life expectancy and are more likely to remain dependent on the universal pension system much more so than Non-Aboriginal people. Single women past the age of fifty-five also tend to have less when it comes to retirement savings and are also less likely to own their own homes.
This question of financial security comes up a lot in my line of work and its not just Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples or women in their later years; its also men who have been tradies and construction workers who, at the age of fifty and beyond, soon realize that they just can’t do the job anymore. Its not that they don’t want to – they physically just can lift the bricks, pour the concrete and crawl under the floor space to fix the leaking pipe. So, what does this all mean for the world of aging and living into retirement? It comes down to planning. In this series of articles I am going to approach some pretty tough topics and some that are a little lighter on – from the challenge of working, financial security and what planning ahead actually looks like – but also, what more each of us can do whether we are young or old.
So, let’s start from the very beginning – caring for the physical needs of our elders:
Always try and keep your loved one connected
Its true we are all busy people, but we always need to be mindful to start connected with our elders and ensure they do not feel isolated or left out. This is one of the major challenges a lot of our elders face because once they feel isolated and socially disconnected, they can rapidly decline. More than that they tend to lead very lonely lives. Distance from our loved ones can appear to be a challenge but the truth is with the advancement in technology and social media there is nothing stopping us from being in regular contact.
The first thing we should all consider is what more we could be doing. If you live close create a schedule of a stop by or visit; an excursion to a local café or even just a trip up the library to pick up or drop off some books with your loved one. Regular phone calls to check in that all is well or just to have a yarn can be equally as comforting and satisfying for your loved ones and even a stay-over.
If you live some way away make sure to set your loved one up on social media so you can remain in touch through messenger or video calling. And on that note; very often they may not have access to social media because they don’t know how to use it and may not even be on a data plan. A twenty-dollar data top-up for your loved one can go a long way!
Put a plan in place in case of an emergency
An emergency or an accident can happen at any time and you can prepare. The truth is few of us do and are often caught off guard. Here are some simple things you can do now:
Make sure emergency numbers are visible either on the fridge or close by to where your loved one spends most of their day
Always make sure there is a basic emergency kit nearby; band aids, creams and so on
If you have access to a tracking App that might be able, with your elders’ consent, to keep tabs on them in terms of general movements and medications then give it a go – especially if your elder has trouble with memory loss
Do an audit of the home to ensure that some of the basic hazards are dealt with – for example; is the stove gas and therefore has an anti-turn off button? Are smoke detectors installed and are the light bulbs checked on a regular basis? Yes, light bulbs! The smallest thing such as a lightbulb in the lamp on the bedside table failing during the night could lead to a fall in the dark
Regular chats with the GP or Pharmacist
Let’s face it when we get a little on in years, we tend to get a little more reliant on the little pills! And it’s not unknown for dosage to change or the regularity of scripts to change. Checking in with your elders’ doctor or pharmacy can help ensure there is no mix up and things run smoothly.
Of course! These are just some simple things we can all be doing when it comes to supporting our elders as they age – remember; our focus should always be on them and their comfort. Keep following me and post your comments below for me tips and insights when it comes to the Aging and what more we can all be doing!
About the author:
Mike Hercock: State Manager NSW and the ACT for ANNECTO https://www.annecto.org.au/ annecto clients include people with disabilities, older people, families and carers who want advice, advocacy and support. We deliver personal services to help you feel safe and comfortable at home.
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