Many of the day-to-day tasks people take for granted in their younger years become more onerous for the elderly. Activities like the four below—meals, transportation, hygiene, and mobility—can become challenging.
It’s important to ask for help when these tasks become difficult and to take advantage of resources in the community to help meet one’s needs. In the list below, we offer advice on where to turn for assistance.
Elderly Activities: Meals and Meal-Planning
Grocery shopping and meal preparation can become difficult tasks as elderly activities, particularly if you are no longer able to drive or if you suffer from conditions that prevent prolonged standing or lifting.
Many community centers have meal programs for senior citizens and/or information on Meals on Wheels programs. Try calling your local community center, local library, or chamber of commerce for a list of such programs. Asking friends or family for assistance with grocery shopping or hiring someone to do it for you are other options.
Transportation and Senior Activities
It’s worthwhile to be involved in elderly activities, but getting around isn’t always possible. Driving a car in later years can be challenging as our reflexes slow and our vision deteriorates, but many communities have transportation programs for the seniors.
Visit www.eldercare.gov or call 1-800-677-1116 to find out what options exist in your community.
Maintaining good personal hygiene is important. This can be complicated if you suffer from incontinence. If this is a problem for you, you should discuss it with your healthcare provider so that they can help determine the cause of your incontinence and possible treatment and daily management options.
Additionally, good oral hygiene is also important to prevent gum disease and even heart disease. Our skin is often thinner and more prone to infection as we age, so keeping it clean is critical. However, simply taking a shower or bath can become difficult tasks for the elderly. Often, having a walk-in-tub or a shower seat and shower handle bar are absolute necessities for maintaining the ability to bathe independently. Even with this equipment, it can be sometimes be necessary to have someone assist you in the bathing process.
If family is not an option, you might need to have a home health provider come on a regular basis. Your healthcare provider can help direct you towards local care resources or you can visit www.eldercare.gov or call 1-800-677-1116 for local options.
Mobility: A Key for Elderly Activities
Moving around your home can become dangerous for the elderly; activities as simple as climbing stairs can become a challenge as we age, particularly for those who suffer from balance problems or arthritis. Taking certain precautions can make it safer, starting with the proper footwear. Make a point to find comfortable shoes that give you the type of support (for example, arch support) you need.
Your healthcare provider, podiatrist, or physical therapist can help you determine the right type of shoe for you. Research suggests that it is not safe to walk in stocking feet without shoes as your risk for falls might be increased.
- Assistance devices: If you suffer from balance problems or have limited mobility, you might be in need of an assistance device. Examples:
- Canes: Canes can relieve pressure on joints, provide stability and help prevent falls. Canes can be found at medical supply stores and regular pharmacies. Important: Find a cane that’s the appropriate height, handle, and design for your needs. If you’re not certain what those requirements are for you, consult with your doctor, physical therapist, or medical supply store staff.
- Walkers: Some people need the wider base of support that walkers provide. Walkers can be purchased at medical supply stores or ordered online.
- Scooters/wheelchairs: When walking is no longer an option, it may be necessary to obtain a scooter or wheelchair. If your doctor agrees that this is necessary, Medicare and many insurance companies will help cover some or all of this expense. You should consult with your healthcare provider, insurance company, and Medicare (www.medicare.gov/supplier or 1-800-MEDICARE [1-800-633-4227]) to determine where you should obtain your device.
- Senior alerts: In the event you do experience a fall, it’s important to have some method to call for assistance. Medical alarms for seniors can ensure quick help. The cost can be a few hundred dollars per year, but it’s well worth it. A number of companies produce senior alert devices; they typically involve a medical alarm button that can be worn as a neck pendant or wristband and, optionally, wall-mounted near the floor in multiple rooms.
The button’s speaker and voice capabilities allow an elderly person to contact a “care specialist,” as one manufacturer, LifeStation, calls its operators, who are on duty to respond to calls and alert emergency services. Among the other companies cited, along with LifeStation, by Consumer Reports as makers of recommended senior alert systems are Life Alert, Medical Alert, MobileHelp, Phillips Lifeline, and Rescue Alert.
Originally posted in March 2016 and updated.