Coping when an elderly relative comes to stay

Posted by Julie Foster on

There may come a time when, as a carer, you will need to have a loved one stay with you, which can be a strain for all involved if the situation is not carefully managed. A change in routine, juggling your own daily tasks and struggling to make them feel at home without running yourself into the ground and finding things stressful and tiring can be tough.

It’s also potentially very tough on the person coming to stay, especially if they aren’t used to having much company. They may be restless, stressed out or even confused about where they are. Putting signs on the doors of rooms may help if you think they may get lost and not be able to find their way round. You might also want to install a nightlight on the landing to reduce the risk of falls if they are likely to get up frequently in the night.

Remember that the person may need time to adapt to a new environment and the change of being away from home. Make sure they feel like they’re not in the way and do your best to make them as comfortable as possible. At the same time, if they can do things and get involved in tasks, then encourage them to do so.

Here’s how to make sure they feel as relaxed and things go as smoothly as possible…

  • Get the person involved in tasks – If it’s possible for the person you’re caring for to help you with domestic tasks like folding tea towels or preparing meals then do it. It’ll be good for their confidence and means you can spend quality time together, working as a team.
  • Enlist support – make sure that family and loved ones know that they need to do their bit and make sure that everyone has their own responsibilities and tasks so that you aren’t carrying all the pressure on your own.
  • Know when the person needs a break – company provides stimulation and reassurance for a loved one, but an environment that is too busy or noisy with too many people can cause confusion and even distress. Know when the person needs a break and try to avoid leaving them in a room where there are too many people and too many different conversations.
  • Don’t make huge meals – many elderly people to eat smaller meals or snacks and don’t want a great big dinner placed in front of them. Lower appetite and eating slower can mean that the energy intake at meals goes down, leading to low energy availability. To increase the calorie content of food and satiation of meals, includinggood quality fats is important. Useful sources of fat that are easy to eat and nutritious, are oily fish, cheese, avocado, nuts and nut butters. 
  • Know when they need help with eating – If they have visibility they may need help with eating. Sight issues can occur in a person with dementia, as the brain has to process what we see – guide them with eating where necessary. Use crockery that’s easy to see.
  • Feed them to boost immunity – In the chilly weather, colds are common and easily spread when relatives visit. The strength of the immune system is linked to the availability of vital nutrients and as the ability to digest, absorb and metabolise nutrients decreases with age, deficiency is more common and this can compromise immunity. Vitamin C. Zinc and Selenium are particularly important in supporting the immune system. Vitamin C is found in fruits (especially citrus) and vegetables, the best sources of Zinc are meat, dairy, eggs, shellfish, nuts and seeds and Selenium is in brazil nuts, walnuts and meat products.
  • Keep their protein intake up – Eating good quality protein is key for building and repairing the body and so is an increasingly important nutrient as we age. The current recommendation for protein is 0.75g/kg body weight per day but recent studies suggest that 1-1.5g/kg body weight may be necessary to stop muscle wasting as we age. We can get protein from dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt, meat and poultry, eggs and pulses. Vitamin D is also important, supporting the maintenance of healthy bones and muscle strength. The body is less able to produce vitamin D from the sun as we age and so dietary sources are important. The best dietary sources are oily fish and fortified breakfast cereals. 
  • Be prepared for incontinence – If you suspect the person is incontinent or may struggle to reach the loo in time, make sure they have a room near the bathroom or install a commode. Have relevant products to hand that can help cope with any spillages. Check out Aroma Care Solutions’s range of cleaning products here.

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