By Kevin Smith
This summer, will your elderly parents (or disabled loved ones) require in-home support for a vacation stay outside the familiar surroundings of their primary residence? Whether they’re accompanying you and your family on a two-week seaside getaway, or spending a few months in a rental property nearby, it’s important to think and plan ahead.
These tips can ensure that their living space and the home care services they receive meet their specific daily needs while taking into account the entire family’s vacation goals.
Tip #1: Accept and plan for change. Just because dad was able to prepare his own meals (or get down a staircase) in a summer residence last year doesn’t mean he is able to perform the same tasks this year. Call an agency with a strong local presence in the area you will be vacationing to have your loved ones needs reassessed — and a plan of care developed — before this summer’s migration.
Tip #2: Make adjustments that improve safety and mobility. Arrive at your loved ones summer residence before they do to ensure that it is accessible and safe. This sounds simple, but what may appear to be perfect summer rental for someone who is young and mobile can be a booby trap for those who use a cane, walker or wheelchair. Make sure there are no loose cords, that carpets and flooring are secure, and that both the bathroom and entryway are wheelchair accessible. Is the home adequately ventilated, cooled and heated? Check the HVAC system, and if necessary, install window air conditioners in the main living and sleeping areas.
Tip #3: Have emergency resources in place. Have you informed your loved ones primary physician of their summer location? What emergency clinic, hospital and pharmacy is closest to their summer residence? Do they use a lifeline device? If no, now’s the time to get one! If yes, test it from their summer residence.
Tip #4: Harmonize your loved ones needs with your vacation goals. Once you’re confident that their vacation residence is safe and accessible, and that you have the resources in place to address any emergencies that might arise, assess what kind of home care services your loved ones will need. The services you contract for should be a reflection of how you and your family want to spend your vacation days, allowing both spontaneity and flexibility.
Tip #5: Remember that you are the customer. Vacation means spending quality time together and making each day unique. Do you need someone to help your spouse rise, bathe and dress while you take an early morning walk? Do you need help transporting a loved one to a local recreation center for a swim? Do you need someone to help mom get ready, then take her to meet you and your family for dinner? Or does your loved one simply need to get out for a drive along the shore? The home care service you hire should be able to quickly adapt to your needs and plans on a day-to-day basis. They should be able to offer an array of home care services (from homemaker/companion to home health aide to clinical nursing services) and ready transportation that makes vacation time with your loved one a joy, not a burden.
Final tips for a healthy summer with your elderly loved ones
Besides making sure that their living space is safe and accessible, you and your loved ones caregivers should be super vigilant during summer outings with older family members.
- Seniors tend to drink less water, which can speed dehydration in warmer months. Bring plenty of drinking water on all outings, and make sure your loved one drinks water at frequent intervals both at home and on the road.
- Because heat stroke is also a big risk for seniors, make sure your loved one wears a sun protective hat and light clothing that helps air circulate while preventing burns. Make sure they wear a high-SPF sun block on all exposed skin.
- While seniors eat less at each meal, they do need to eat at frequent intervals. Bring healthy snacks that do not spoil, are easy to eat and can boost energy: Fresh fruit, easily digestible cereal bars or granola bars are good choices.
- Keep the number of your vacation area’s local hospital, clinic and ambulance service in your wallet or phone for fast access. If your loved one becomes dizzy or disoriented, get them to a cool shady location as fast as possible, give them water, and call that area’s emergency response service.
Kevin Smith is president and COO, Best of Care, Inc. which serves Greater Boston, South Shore and Cape Cod communities with offices in Quincy, Raynham and Dennis, Mass. Best of Care’s concierge-level services include personal care services, homemakers and companions, hospice care, private nursing, nursing care management and specialty services as they relate to dementia, psychiatric and acquired brain injury care. Best of Care Inc. was named a 2014 Family Business of the Year finalist by the Family Business Association of Massachusetts. Smith is an Executive Committee member of the Massachusetts Council for Home Care Aides.