Positive steps to help your relative cope better at home

( 02 September 2016 )

A few small changes that can help an elderly parent or relative cope better in their home.

There comes a time when older relatives can find it difficult to manage at home. 

However, with a bit of imagination you can help.

"Listening, noticing and observing are key skills," says Karin Tancock from the College of Occupational Therapists. "Rather than focusing on the negatives – things they can't do – it's helpful to talk about the things they do well.

"Your relative doesn't want to think they are a problem; they want to know that they are as valued and appreciated as ever."

For example, if your mother is struggling to bend down to reach pans in the kitchen, you might say: "You're a great cook, Mum, but I can see you find it hard bending down to get the pans out of that low cupboard. What about moving them to a higher cupboard where they’re easier to reach?"

Opening on a positive note and providing a solution means you are less likely to make her feel needy or meet with resistance.

Tips to help make your home more accessible

Look out for clues

All sorts of subtle clues, such as relying on ready meals, making excuses not to go out, using furniture to hold on to, stiffness getting out of the car or off the sofa, a loose towel rail where it’s been pulled, can signify that daily life is getting to be a bit of a struggle.

Focus on their priorities

If a relative is finding it hard to carry on with an activity, find out what enjoyment they get from it and work out other ways to get the same pleasure.

"If they play golf, it may not be the game so much as the chance to mix with people that's important," says Karin. "Perhaps they could still go to the golf club for lunch to enjoy the social side of their hobby."

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Don’t rush them into moving home

"If a relative is finding it hard to manage, it is often better to help them adapt their home rather than pushing them to move," says Karin. "Daily routine is important – that trip to the local shops and meeting others, for example.

"Moving to a strange place can deprive them of these vital boosts to wellbeing."

Strategic visits

Could neighbours help by popping in or helping with shopping? 

What about a meal delivery service? Wiltshire Farm Foods and Oakhouse Foods deliver ready-made frozen meals. Meals on wheels are run by the Royal Voluntary Service.

Or are visits from a carer what’s required?

Social services may be able to arrange this or use Carers UK's homecare finder tool to track down services in your area. 

Alternatively, you can call Carers UK on 0808 808 7777. 

Find out more of our useful links for carers...

Learn more about Saga's care funding advice service here...

Predictable problems

Many accidents are easy to avoid. Walk around your loved one’s house and try to spot the dangers. 

Cables to trip over? Clip wires to the skirting boards.

Wrinkled rugs? Put in anti-slip mats or remove them altogether. 

You get the idea!

*Karin Tancock is Professional Affairs Officer for Older People at the College of Occupational Therapists.

Want to know more about care funding? Browse our articles.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.