5 steps to help an elderly relative live at home

Are there ways to help your elderly parent live at home longer? You’ll be relieved to discover that, yes, there are several steps you can take to help your elderly parent live at home longer and avoid moving to a care home. And, if you’re their caregiver, these are steps that will help to stop you feeling as frazzled and stressed out by the situation as you otherwise might be without them.

In this article you’ll find five relatively simple ways you’ll be able to assist your elderly parent to live at home longer and stay safe and well while they do so. These include assessing the suitability of your parent’s current home, how to make their home safer, and what technology is available to help make their life, and yours, easier for ‘ageing in place’.

What is ageing in place?

There’s an old proverb – an Englishman’s home is his castle – and that really sums up the way we British think about our homes. That sentiment doesn’t change as we get older.

In a recent survey conducted by YouGov for the UKHCA (United Kingdom Homecare Association) nine out of ten people over the age of 65 said they’d rather stay at home than go into a care home. And who can blame them? There’s nothing better than closing your own door, sitting on the sofa or in your favourite chair with your things all around you no matter what age you are.

Ageing in place is the modern term that’s applied to situations where an elderly person wants to maintain their independence and remain in their home for as long as possible. Basically, all it means is spending the later years of your life in your own home. You’ll come across the term often as it’s frequently used by government organisations, local authorities and healthcare professionals.

Ageing in place is something the UK authorities are keen to encourage. They see it as a way to alleviate some of the burden that our ever-increasing elderly population places on the NHS and other health and welfare providers. While that all sounds great, ageing in place for the elderly can mean a lot more responsibilities fall on the shoulders of close family and that can prove to be challenging if you’re unprepared. Here’s what you can do to make it easier for yourself and the person you’ll be caring for.

Help for elderly living at home: what you can do

Communicate regularly

Communicating with your elderly parent or relative is vitally important to their wellbeing. That doesn’t just mean calling once a day and asking if everything is okay. You need to spend time with them, ask them questions and listen to their answers.

What may seem trivial to you, and something you do without even thinking about it, may have become a major challenge to them. It could be a task as simple as putting the kettle on that’s now difficult because it’s too heavy. Replacing it with a smaller appliance is a quick and easy solution.

It may be they’re having problems getting out of their chair, getting off the loo, reaching things in top cupboards or opening jars. Most daily struggles the elderly face can be, if not completely solved, made a lot easier with a bit of thoughtfulness, reorganisation or by getting the right aid if one is needed. But before you can solve a problem, you need to know it exists so – communicate. You won’t know they’re struggling if you don’t ask and listen to what they are saying.

Assess your parent’s home location and needs

Your parent may well have been perfectly content living where they’ve been living while they were fit, healthy and had full mobility. Living in the countryside and cycling five miles to the nearest shop is okay for some eighty-year-olds, but not for all. Driving a vehicle can also become problematic, if not impossible, if they’ve suffered a stroke or have poor vision.

Take a long hard look at where they live and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there a decent public transport service with stops nearby?
  • Are they able enough to use the local public transport services?
  • Are taxis an affordable alternative method of getting from A to B or will they prove to be too costly when used on a regular basis?
  • Is there a reliable free community transport service run by local volunteers they can use for appointments at the hospital or with their doctor?
  • If they live in an apartment block, is there lift access or too many stairs for them to manage?
  • Would a mobility scooter help them get out and about more?
  • Is their home within a reasonable reaching distance for emergency medical services?
  • How long does it take for you or another family member to get from your home to theirs?
  • Are they within reasonable walking distance from neighbours, a community and shops or do they risk isolation?

The above are all factors you’ll need to take into consideration if your parent’s ageing in place experience is going to be a good, safe and comfortable one.

Modifying your elderly relative’s home environment

Modifying your parent or elderly relative’s home environment doesn’t just mean diving in and rearranging the furniture. What you need to do is have a look around and try to identify things that might be a safety hazard or make everyday tasks easier.

For example, if they’re struggling to pick their feet up or shuffling around in slippers, rugs are something they can easily trip over. Installing a basic stove guard on the cooker top can help prevent a serious accident if they stumble or lose their balance while preparing food.

There are now lots of technological aids on the market that have been designed specifically with people who are ageing in place in mind. Remote monitoring is exactly what the name suggests – keeping an eye on someone from a distance. As well as grandparent cams and personal alarms connected to twenty-four-hour response centres, there are sensors that can detect movement including falls and AI apps that can store data on a person’s daily routine which send out an alarm if something changes.

While your elderly relative might not be over the moon if you suggest rigging their house up with webcams, they may feel that some of the other less intrusive remote monitoring aids will give them an improved sense of security when they’re home alone.

It’s definitely worth taking a few hours to research what ageing in place aids are available. Get the right piece of equipment and not only will it prove to be super beneficial for your elderly parent, it’ll relieve some of the stress of caring for them too.

Be proactive with healthcare for elderly relatives

There aren’t many people who manage to reach old age without having some sort of medical issue or another. While you don’t need to scroll through page after page of online information, (it can get brain boggling and end up worrying you more) it’s good to know at least a little about your parent’s ailments. It’s also important to make yourself aware of the warning signs you should be keeping an eye out for in case they forget to take their medication or things start to go wrong for whatever reason.

Thankfully the medical world is keeping up to date with technological advances and many common, ongoing health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure as well as recurring urine infections can be monitored remotely. The remote monitoring of long-term health problems is done with smart patches or monitors, issued by a person’s practitioner, that they wear on their body.

The smart patches are capable of triggering an alarm either at doctor’s surgery or at a response centre when they sense any deviation to the norm which requires immediate medical attention. There are now smart patches and monitors that can administer medication when needed so if your parent is forgetful, or in the early stages of dementia, it might be a subject to discuss with them and their healthcare provider to see if it’s a viable option for them.

Not all of the afflictions you can get in old age can be remotely monitored. So far there are no smart patches that can detect a person’s mood. Elderly people can be prone to depression and if you’re busy, bustling in and out at speed because you’ve got a thousand things to do, you might not notice changes in their mood.

Many elderly suffer from social isolation because of mobility problems and that’s something that can get worse during the winter. Don’t take the standard response of – I’m fine – as gospel. They may not be. Yes, it’s hard to make time for everything so you’ll need to prioritise and reorganise. A prolonged, relaxed visit, a cup of tea and a long chat can make all the difference. It’ll also give you the chance to assess whether or not your elderly relative’s low mood requires professional help.

Get help sooner rather than later

Helping a parent or elderly relative age in place is a big responsibility and one that is hard to do alone. If you’d like your parent or elderly relative to be able to live at home longer, the sooner you can bring in outside support the better. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

The kind of support you get will vary depending on your parent’s specific needs, ranging from someone to come and take care of certain household chores once or twice a week, to someone who can escort them outside for walks and shopping, or help them with some basic self-care.  

Other family members and neighbours can be a big help, as long as your parent gets on with them, but that’s often just not enough. Luckily, there is now an emergence of ‘Companion’ apps like Gubbe and Companiions that are doing for ‘ageing in place’ support what Deliveroo did for food delivery. Apps like these are great when your parent or elderly relative could benefit from some companionship and support with daily activities a couple of times a week, but isn’t at the stage where they require a fully trained carer. It’s worth seeing which ones offer services in your parent’s local area.

For a cheaper option, you could check out the support groups operating in your parent’s local area. AGE UK offers befriending and home help services and is a great place to start. You may be able to find similar support services in the area by enquiring at your parent’s doctor’s surgery, by making enquiries at the local council office or by checking their website. Don’t hesitate to make use of any help you can get, you’ll need it.

In summary

It makes sense to ensure our elderly parents and relatives are as happy and comfortable in their later years as they possibly can be. For many, this means being able to remain in the comfort of their own home. Although it won’t always be plain sailing, there’s plenty of support and technology out there that you can put to good use to make it easier than it otherwise might be. Ask yourself where you’d like to be when you reach their age and you’re bound to answer “at home” so take the time to give your parent or elderly relative the same opportunity by following the steps outlined in this article.

Common questions

  • How do you tell an elderly person they need help?

You can tell an elderly person they need help, but they probably won’t listen. You can ask them if they need help and you might get a positive reply. Rather than telling someone they need help, try making useful, but pressure-free suggestions. You’ll get a much better response.

  • How much does a live-in caregiver cost in the UK?

Prices published by the UK Care Guide in May 2023 quote the cost of a live-in carer as ranging from £800 to £1800 per week.

  • What are the disadvantages of ageing in place?

The main disadvantages of ageing in place are the risk of social isolation, depression and the sudden onset of unexpected health conditions. However, these issues can be avoided with the right preparation and support.

  • Can a person with dementia live at home?

Whether a person with dementia can live at home greatly depends on the severity of their condition. With the right support, a person with dementia may be more comfortable and manage better for longer in a familiar environment.

  • Can I be a paid carer for a family member?

To receive a carer’s allowance from the UK government you need to care for a person for thirty-five hours per week. Currently carer’s allowance is £76.75 per week.

Terminology toolkit

Ageing in place – staying in your own home in your later years

Remote monitoring – Using technology to monitor health and safety from a distance

Grandparent cam – a webcam installed in an elderly person’s home to monitor their movements

Age UK – A charitable organisation dedicated to supporting people in their old age

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