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Caregiving for the Elderly

Question

How do I keep in touch with an aging father who insists on keeping his independence and on living alone? My husband and I work and all our relatives do not wish to take on the burden of taking care of an aging father. He is frail and is getting more forgetful. He has been found twice wondering around miles away from home (having taken the wrong bus home) and we are grateful that the authorities have taken good care of him whilst locating us. However, the next time around, we may not be so fortunate. How do we take care of him without making him feel dependent on us? How do we deal with his mental health issues as I fear that he may have dementia?

REAP 

Answer: 

Allow me to outline the areas of concerns involved before I proceed to explain how you will be
able to deal with this issue:

  1. You and your husband work and therefore have no time to take care of an ageing father
  2. Your elderly father is frail and forgetful but wants to be independent
  3. There are safety concerns for your father
  4. Support needed as both you and your husband haveyour hands full looking after the entire family.

It may be wise to have a caregiver, a domestic helper or in some instances, a family member, usually a daughter, to look after the person who needs care. Firstly, you may wish to make an appointment for your father to see a specialist so that he can be screened for dementia or any other conditions that may be the cause of his forgetfulness.

There is hopeful news: in some cases of dementia, we have had positive response to reversing dementia once the underlying cause is treated. Your father may then return to his normal lifestyle. If your father indeed has irreversible dementia, there are medications that can slow down the progression of the illness, thereby giving him quality of life for many more years to come. Once your father receives the medical care required, you may wish to address your father’s wishes while at the same time ensure his safety.

One solution is to persuade him to agree to have a caregiver at home with him. The overriding concern must be his safety and the safety of his neighbours as he may forget to lock his door or to turn off the stove. You may need to stress that although you wish to respect his independence, you are concerned for his safety. Discuss with him gently so that he understands this. Other family members will have to help financially to compensate the caregiver for making the sacrifice to take care of their father. This can be done through a family discussion.

It would be a good idea to allow your father to wear an identification tag, so that if he does leave home without being noticed and then gets lost, people who find him can contact you or your family members. For community support in your neighbourhood, you may wish to explore community eldercare agencies that offer a variety of services to support families with elderly parents. Such services can be dementia-specific day-care centres where families can place their loved ones in the care of professional staff and at the same time get some respite for themselves.

There are also social day centres where the elderly can engage in meaningful activities or social bonding; and Befrienders who visit the elderly in the home to offer psychological support, deliver meals and offer help with household chores. Organisations such as Alzheimers’ Disease Association and Tsao Foundation provide caregiver training for those caring for loved ones suffering from dementia. Home Medical and Nursing Services are available for the continuity of care in the home, if the elderly is unable to avail themselves for follow up at the clinic. IMH offers Aged Psychiatry Community Assessment and Treatment Service (APCATS) in the form of a multidisciplinary team that assesses and treats the elderly with mental health problems, in the comfort of their homes. APC ATS also provides caregiver support and home safety assessment via its multidisciplinary team.

 

Related Brochure: 

Fall Prevention 

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