Care and Comfort

My grandparents live pretty near to campus, so while I’m at school I try to visit them pretty often. Lately, I’ve been kind of worried about the two of them. My grandmother fell down in the tub recently, and while she didn’t break any bones, she’s been spending a lot of time in bed and has been complaining that it’s really uncomfortable (she even has some sores, my grandfather says). Meanwhile, my grandfather seems kind of overwhelmed by all his responsibilities around the house – especially since my grandmother isn’t really in a position to help him. I’m starting to think that they should consider moving to an assisted living facility, but I know from past conversations that my grandfather is really against that sort of thing, and I’m not sure that I should be bringing this up as a grandchild (my parents don’t live nearby and haven’t visited too recently, so it’s really just me dealing with this). Any advice from the experts?

Living in your own home gets tougher as you grow older, and it sounds like your grandparents are dealing with some of the issues that many other older Americans experience. Eventually, 7 out of 10 Americans will need long-term care; that’s a tough reality to face, though, especially for the 55% of us who say our greatest long-term care fear is becoming a burden on our families. For some, the answer will be a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Still, there are ways to make a home safer. The developers behind the American Standard walk-in tub say that products like theirs can extend the amount of time seniors can safely stay in their homes by cutting down on the danger of accidents like the one your grandmother had. Other products–including safety handrails and guardrails, stairlifts, and ramps designed for older folks with wheelchairs and canes–also target this same customer base, hoping to help seniors retain their independence for as long as possible.

It’s hard to say without more information whether the situation your grandparents are in merits a switch to an assisted living facility, and the decision will ultimately have to come from them regardless. But the situation does sound serious. The comfort experts at Plumeria Bay say there are all sorts of ways to make a bed more comfortable, including improved mattresses, duvets, and duvet covers, to name just a few. But they’re quick to caution that most of the linens, pillows, and mattresses available to the general populace are designed for a good night’s sleep, not a long-term period of being bedridden. Bed sores are very serious medical issues that can linger for a long time, and if they are the “sores” your grandfather refers to, the time has come to seek medical help.

You’re right to point out that your position as a grandchild makes this conversation difficult. Perhaps it would be best to communicate your concerns to your parents and urge them to move their next visit up to as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can offer to help your grandparents in any way possible and can voice your concerns–if not certain possible solutions–to your grandfather. You may find that, with a sympathetic ear, he develops a healthy solution on his own–without being forced to hear tough truths from his grandchild.

“It’s not how old you are; it’s how you are old.” — Jules Renard

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