Traditionally, Africans love to look after their parents in their old age. In the absence of the type of State social security provided for old people in the West, for most adult children it is not only an honour but also a duty to care for their own parents.
However rising urbanisation and emigration, the gradual disintegration of the Nigerian extended family system alongside increasing social and economic pressures have meant that most people now live far away from their aged parents and are unable to afford sufficient time to care for them by themselves as they would have loved to.
If you find yourself in this situation what should do? How best can you care for your parents in their old age in a way that will make their final years on earth most fulfilling and dignifying?
Care for the Elderly by Caring for their Needs
You care for the elderly by taking care of their needs. As we grow older, our needs change. For the elderly, the changes they experience in their old age are not just physical but also emotional. Caring for them requires learning to care for both types of needs.
1. Nurture relationships to prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness
With their energy dwindling and their social circle rapidly diminishing – children all grown up and out of the house and most of their friends now deceased or frail, naturally the feelings of loneliness and isolation begin to set in.
Yet they have a strong desire to stay connected to friends and family.
You can care for your elderly parents by nurturing relationships with them to stop them from feeling isolated and depressed.
Make time for them as much as you can. Schedule regular times to visit them. Call them regularly. Make provision to take their grandchildren to them or arrange regular video calls with them on Zoom, Google Meet or Skype.
Help them to build and maintain relationships with family members and friends. These people provide companionship, which is invaluable at any age.
Connect them with relationships that provide them a sense of community – in the neighbourhood, in their church or mosque, among other old people. Where possible, connect them with opportunities to participate in group activities and appropriate social outings.
Having a social life empowers and energizes the elderly. These opportunities to socialize improve their wellbeing, morale and mental health. It also gives them a sense of belonging. These ingredients are critical to avoid experiencing depression.
Part of caring for them socially is to make provision for their entertainment and recreation. Get them a radio, TV set or video player. Share with them regularly your pictures and keep in their photo album or record video clips of you, their grandchildren or clips that capture memories from their past. Celebrate events and memories that matter to them like their birthday among others.
2. Provide Health Care
As we get older, we tend to develop long term conditions that require more health care. It is therefore not uncommon for elderly people to have several health conditions, take several medications and require more interactions with healthcare providers.
At this critical stage of their life, they need adequate medical care such as doctor’s visits, foot care, dental care, eye care, physical therapy and mental health care. Oftentimes they are unable to access these care services on their own.
You look after your aged parents by ensuring that their healthcare needs are constantly met. For instance where they are no longer able to attend hospital appointments independently, you can engage the services of home care agencies in Nigeria to deploy a medical doctor or other healthcare professionals to be visiting them regularly at home for medical check-up, nursing care, physiotherapy or rehabilitation.
Where they need to attend hospital appointment or need to be admitted, these home health agencies can supply professional home care attendants (carers) to provide hospital escort.
Most elderly people need proper medication – whether orthodox or traditional medicines to remain healthy. Ensure your parents’ medications are always available. Where they are unable to take the medications on their own or are always forgetting to take it, you can employ the services of trained home care attendants to be living with them and assisting them.
Digital platforms like HomeCare – Nigeria’s first digital healthcare marketplace allows you to book the services of doctors, registered nurses, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, home care attendants and more from as little as N10,000 per doctor’s home visit.
Another platform MyMedicalBank Telemedicine not only allows you to book video-based teleconsultation for your elderly parents from only N3,000, it also allows you to join in the consultation and to received medical reports after each session.
3. Provide Personal and Companion Care
With aging often comes health conditions like arthritis, incontinence, hearing impairment, dementia, and osteoporosis that impair the elderly’s capacity to function independently. If your aged parent suffers from such conditions, you can engage the services of a home care agency to deploy a trained home care attendant (HCA) to support them.
HCAs or carers are trained to offer your parents a range of personal care services like providing or assisting with bathing, dressing, toileting, feeding, mobility and transfers, hospital and social escort and taking medications among others.
Unlike the most commonly used househelps, HCAs are trained to provide basic health maintenance activities like monitoring and recording the elderly person’s Blood Pressure, temperature, BMI as well as assisting them to perform exercise regimes prescribed by a physiotherapist and identifying and escalating signs of health deterioration quickly to a supervising doctor or nurse.
Even if your aged parents are able to perform these tasks independently, you can still engage the services of a trained home care attendant to provide them with companionship. This is important to prevent feelings of loneliness and depression from setting in.
Even if the only value they derive from the HCA is having a friendly person to talk to and socialise with, it is worth it. They can go out to together for instance to be taken to visit their friends and family, on sightseeing on day trips to day care centres for the elderly. As companions they are trained to provide emotional support, take them out for recreational activities, help them walk around as part of their daily exercise.
You can engage HCAs either as live-in or live-out carers depending on the degree of your parent’s independence and the family’s preferences.
Live-in HCAs live with the elderly and they usually work on a shift pattern of 1 or 2 weeks or longer to allow them to take a break in turns.
Live-out HCAs on the other hand come in daily or at agreed frequency. They may resume early in the morning and leave at night; resume in the evening, sleep over and leave in the morning or come only at the weekends.
On HomeCare, a booking platform for home care services in Nigeria, you will find various home care agencies like MMB Healthcare, Damtamy Healthcare, Bethcare and others that you can book HCAs from. These organisations charge between N50,000 – N150,000 per month to care for the elderly –to draw up a care plan as well as to deploy and supervise their HCAs to look after elderly clients.
4. Provide Financial Care and Protection
Over the years, your elderly parents may have built up substantial wealth, a flourishing business, estate of property, large farms or simply have a pension and savings.
Normally they would have taken steps to secure these legacies either through a will or trusteeship. If they haven’t done that, you can help them to take the right steps to secure these especially if they are at a stage that they can no longer make financial decisions on their own.
If this is not done, unscrupulous people can take advantage of them and defraud them of the fruit of their many years of labour seeking to reap where they have not sown.
Where required, involve the services of a lawyer or accountant to help them put their financial legacy in order. Take steps to ensure their money does not become trapped in bank accounts they will no longer be able to access. Delineate their landed property with the use of a surveyor, an estate agent or obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O).
Where your elderly parents do not have any pension or are not opportune to have built up enough wealth to retire on and are entirely dependent on you in their old age, make every effort to ensure that at the minimum their most important needs are met.
Their need for a roof over their head, food, clothing and medical care is sacrosanct. You will need to set aside a certain proportion of your earnings to cater for these needs both as an honour and as a duty.
To reduce the financial burden on you, expectedly you would need to do this in conjunction with your siblings unless you are the only child. You may consider selling off a property or an asset they have to help towards financing their care.
You may also consider sign them up on a health insurance plan specifically designed for the elderly – to offset part or all their healthcare expenses. You can consider opening a savings account for them from where their financial needs are funded.
You can reach out to old people-focused Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), your parent’s church, mosque or social club to find out about any available financial support they can access. Occasionally some State Governments provide welfare and healthcare services to the elderly at free or subsidized rate. You can also check out for these.
5. Place them in a Care/Nursing Home
Understandably, Nigerians in general do not find it culturally acceptable to place their aged parents in a care home because the concept is not traditionally an African concept but a Western culture. ‘Uprooting’ one’s parents from their own home and network of extended family members and placing them in a care home is almost considered as abandoning or punishing them.
However realities of the gradual disintegration of the extended family system and the increasing female employment to complement family income – two of the major traditional caregiving support systems for the elderly are impacting on the quality of care historically enjoyed by the elderly at home.
Care homes in Nigeria are designed to provide professional care and nursing services in an environment that is as close to what they are already used to at home and even better. They operate to ensure that the physical, social and emotional needs of the elderly are met.
Living with other elderly people like themselves and provided with entertainment and recreational opportunities and timely availability of good healthcare, personal care and feeding, placing your aged parents could actually be a far better option than you may considered.
The good thing is that not only are care homes in Nigeria government regulated, the need to correct negative impressions about the care home model of elderly care and make it acceptable to the public is an additional motivational factor driving excellence in their caregiving. Some care homes in Nigeria include the likes of Winiseph Care Home, Rockgarden Homes, Elderly Care Home among others.
What are your thoughts on caring for your aged parents in Nigeria? Let’s hear from you in the comment section below. Have you enjoyed this article? Please share with others.
www.mymedicalbank.com is Nigeria’s no.1 digital platform that connects consumers with healthcare providers, health information and access to their health records from any location or care setting. For enquiries, go to www.mymedicalbank.com/contact