How to Help Older Adults Manage the Activities of Daily Living

Helping older adults

By adopting a few of the techniques used by professional caregivers, daily tasks become easier and more comfortable for all.

Family caregivers know it takes plenty of heart, patience, and compassion to care for an older loved one. But, it also takes skill.

The more knowledge you have, the more tips and tools you can draw from, the better you’ll be able to care for the older adult you love and some things – like the activities of daily living – can become easier to manage.

“Family caregivers are among the most compassionate, dedicated people we work with,” says Sandi McCann, president of HomeCare of the Rockies, a provider of in-home caregivers to older adults and families living in Boulder, Longmont, Louisville, Lafayette, Broomfield, Loveland, and surrounding areas. “And we want to support them by providing tips and techniques they can use immediately to ease some of the daily challenges.”

These are some of the same techniques HomeCare of the Rockies caregivers learn through the HomeCare 100 Training Curriculum. As part of the education curriculum, they participate in the Caregiver Lab and practice conducting safe transfers, assisting with dressing and hygiene care, and other activities of daily living so they are uniquely qualified to provide care support and help the older adult do as much as they are able and live as independently as possible.

The HomeCare 100 is part of the three-tiered Caregiver Call to Serve program led by the McCann and her sister Maureen McCann to ensure that caregivers are qualified, supported, and held to higher care standards in order to create a sustainable network of care so that seniors can live meaningful lives not just long ones. Caregivers not only learn and practice advanced caregiving skills, but they are paid during the training and receive pay increases for each credit completed.

A HomeCare of the Rockies caregiver can provide respite, comfort, and support for the older adult and those who care for him. They can also help family caregivers establish efficient care routines to help with the activities of daily living and other tasks.

Providing Care Support, Preserving Independence

Keeping up with the daily tasks does become more difficult as we age and can add to the care challenges faced by family caregivers.

Many older adults may no longer have the interest or the energy to handle household chores, prepare meals, or even keep up with regular self-care, showering, and grooming.

Others may have limited functional mobility due to chronic illness, injury, stroke, and other conditions that make it difficult to complete these tasks on their own.

This lack of function is not only frustrating for older adults who have been accustomed to taking care of their own needs their entire lives, but also tough for the family caregiver who must find a way to help while also managing a household and personal responsibilities, which may include a career and family.

Yet there are some strategies family caregivers can use to help older adults adapt and manage the daily activities in a way that allows everyone in the household a bit more independence.

“We need to remember, that these older adults were fully functioning, independent people for most of their lives,” McCann says. “That spirit and desire don’t change even as physical limitations emerge. Everyone wants to live independently, to feel as though they are in charge of their own lives. A qualified professional caregiver can help preserve that independence, and so can family caregivers who allow the older adult to do as much as they are capable of and respectfully support him when needed. “

How to Help Manage Daily Tasks

Try these tips to help the older adult successfully manage the activities of daily living.

Keep to a routine. A routine can benefit seniors and family caregivers alike, so set a schedule around what your loved one prefers and what works for you and stick to it. Perhaps, you like to share toast and coffee before getting dressed for the day. Maybe she likes to wash and dress first thing. A regular routine eases stress and allows you to complete hygiene care, dressing, meals, and other essential activities each day.

Also, be sure to include a regular bathroom routine. Professional caregivers find that adhering to a “toileting schedule” can help older adults with incontinence, says Sara Russell, a Registered Nurse and caregiver educator for HomeCare of the Rockies. Planning regular bathroom times each day helps to train the bladder easing the anxiety, mess, and discomfort of accidental urination, and preserves the older adult’s comfort and dignity.

Tip: Use the time in the bathroom to complete other self-care tasks. Assist with handwashing after toileting and, as long as you are there, help with grooming, oral hygiene, and washing.

Prepare ahead of time for a task. Before beginning hygiene care, dressing, or any task, lay out all the items you’ll need and keep them close by. If you have the supplies ready and easily accessible, you’ll be able to safely reach what you need without leaving your loved one unattended. And, the older adult you care for may be able to comb his hair or handle more tasks on his own if he doesn’t have to open drawers and search for the tools. The more your loved one can do independently, the better both of you will feel.

Take it slow and be patient. Sometimes an older adult can complete the activity but may need more time to do it. If the morning routine takes awhile, Russell says, that’s just fine. It is most important to allow the senior to do what they can do independently rather than rushing the process.

Encourage or assist with bathing two to three times a week. Aging changes our skin making it less oily, and more fragile so the older adult you care for probably won’t need a daily shower. Limit full showers and baths to a few times a week to prevent dryness and other skin complications. Even partial baths can help promote good hygiene and release dead skin cells that can all harbor bacteria and increase the risk of skin breakdown or infections. But, if you do assist your loved one with washing and bathing, be gentle and avoid hard scrubbing in a way that can damage the skin.

Tip: Be sure to evaluate the bathroom for safety. Would a shower bench help with bathing? Could a raised toilet seat make it safer? Are grab bars installed in convenient areas? Talk to a geriatric manager or call HomeCare of the Rockies for a free assessment. We can help you identify tools that will make it easier to safely handle the tasks at home.

Allow older adults to choose their own outfit. One of the greatest forms of independence and self-expression is articulated through the clothing we wear and older adults, like everyone else, have their clothing preferences. Encourage them to pick their own outfit each day.

If your loved one is living with dementia or has a difficult time choosing, limit the clothing choices to a couple of items. And, suggest loose clothing, shirts with large buttons and pull on pants that can make dressing easier.

Slowly help him dress, allowing him to do what he can while supporting the joints and injured or weak limbs, as needed when pulling on clothes. Also, make sure your loved one wears good-fitting socks, and shoes with supportive, non-skid soles for safety.

Managing the activities of daily living is not only essential to well-being and good health, but it’s important for you loved one’s dignity and sense of self. When you work with these tried and true strategies used by our HomeCare of the Rockies caregivers, you’ll find these tasks a little easier to manage.

Can we help? HomeCare of the Rockies caregivers are trained through the HomeCare 100 to assist with the activities of daily living and provide advanced care support while also helping older adults to live as independently as possible. Call us for a free assessment 720-604-2083.

ADLs to Include in Your Daily Care Routine

Activities of Daily Living, or ADLs, are generally the tasks that we need to complete each day to preserve health, dignity, and overall well-being.

Here are the tasks to build into your daily care routine by encouraging the older adult to do what he can and assisting as needed:

  • Bathroom or toileting assistance in the morning and at various intervals throughout the day. May also require hygiene support and cleaning or clothing change.
  • Washing the face.
  • Bathing or showering about three times a week.
  • Brushing the teeth and other oral care.
  • Dressing.
  • Eating regular meals and snacks.
  • Medication as prescribed.
  • Transfers from bed and chairs.
  • Turning and repositioning in bed, if your loved one is bedridden.
  • Walking or physical movement and activity as able.

HomeCare of the Rockies caregivers receive extensive training to support older adults with the activities of daily living. Their focus isn’t simply on completing the task, but also preserving the older adult’s independence as much as possible, regardless of the level of assistance they need.

If you’d like to learn how an in-home caregiver can help you and your loved one, call HomeCare of the Rockies at 720-204-6083 for a free assessment.

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