October is Health Literacy Month. This is the ideal opportunity for both you and your aging parent to take steps to increase health literacy, and take control over their current and future health. This not only gives them the opportunity to enjoy better health as they age, but also makes your care efforts easier and less stressful for both of you. The concept of health literacy can seem intimidating, but there are simple and approachable steps you can make to improve your parent’s literacy, and empower both of you to improve and manage their health in the best ways.
Use these tips to help your elder be more literate about their health:
- Encourage your parent to review their prescriptions carefully, go through all written materials when they are still with the doctor, and ask questions to ensure they know everything they need to about them.
- Ask your parent to repeat instructions the doctor gave in their own words. This demonstrates their understanding, and gives the opportunity to get clarification if needed.
- Encourage your parent to “practice” using any tools or equipment the doctor gives them in the presence of the doctor. This lets the doctor see their understanding, and to make corrections or give further instructions as needed to ensure your parent can use these tools effectively.
- Use simplified language when talking to your parent about health issues, and ask them to “translate” instructions or information into simplified versions. For example, see if your parent is able to use the word “belly” or “stomach” rather than ‘abdomen”, and use the correct version of “take” when talking about medication, whether that is “swallow”, “inject”, “inhale”, or other words.
- Work with your parent to write out instructions for themselves so they can reference them if they need to.
Flexibility is one of the most important skills you can have as a family caregiver. When you are flexible with the care you give, the schedule you maintain, and how you experience your care relationship with your parent, you are better able to adapt to it they are changing needs, give them the care and assistance they need, and also maintain your parent-child relationship with them.
Making elder care a part of your care approach with your aging parent is a fantastic way to help you maintain flexibility as they age in place. An elder home care services provider can be with your aging parent on a customized schedule to ensure they get the care and support they need, when they need it.
This means your parent can stay safe and healthy, maintain more independence, and enjoy a more fulfilling lifestyle, while also giving you the time you need to handle other responsibilities and obligations in your life. This results in a better quality of life for both your aging parent, and you.