A Happy and Healthy Elderly Community has a Positive Effect on Everyone. Q&A with Sarah, LifeStyle Coordinator at St Louis Home Care.

Sarah spent eight years looking after our clients as a home carer. She is now our home care lifestyle coordinator. She loves her work in the community supporting elderly peoples’ health and wellbeing through helping them to connect with others, to stay socially active and to remember sweet moments throughout their lives.

What did you enjoy the most about providing home care in the community?

Over my time as a carer, I noticed that the elderly like to have consistency in their lives, and I enjoyed being able to provide this consistency in a positive way.

I also loved knowing that we help people stay at home (as they age) which is what they want. They have often raised their children there, so they have memories.

I enjoyed helping them get organised and taking them out for the day with activities they look forward to.

Why do you think people become socially isolated as they age?

I think a lot of it is that they lack confidence that stems from health issues such as dementia, depression or physical disabilities they may have. They may live alone and their family may not be local. They may have lost loved ones as well. I think a big issue is a lack of transport and sometimes finances.

About depression, when you have clients that are quite depressed, it can be a huge hurdle for them to get out their front door and it is easier to stay within their four walls. This comes back to lacking confidence too. So it is important to develop rapport with our clients so that they feel safe enough to come out with us.

Sometimes people resist going out. When they finally do, they love it. Throughout the day they will be smiling, laughing, chatting and they are better for it.

From what we have observed, the elderly become depressed because they are socially isolated and don’t have people around them. Every family has its issues and sometimes skeletons in the closet, but life continues and staying socially connected is important as you age.

Another common reason they start isolating themselves is that they have more time on their hands, and they reflect on the lives that they used to live and now don’t anymore. They lose a bit of faith in themselves because their physical ability can remind them they are getting older, for example making a cup of coffee and not having a steady hand.

It’s important to accept where you are, and focus on your abilities and not what you can’t do.

When my clients get frustrated with themselves, I ask them “What advice would you give to a person who is down about what they can or can no longer do?” Self-acceptance is important.

Also, don’t focus on the people you have lost but embrace the new people in your life, and, it is never too late to meet new people.

Dementia can add another reason to worry. If there is some dementia, people start to second guess themselves which creates anxiety so this needs to be managed.

How do you help them stay socially connected?

This can be through practical things like grocery shopping, going out for lunch or a coffee. We can’t always rely on weather being good to go out so we will do crosswords, a jigsaw puzzle or we might even look through old photos.

We take our clients out to visit somewhere like the zoo, art galleries, nurseries or even just a scenic drive on the beach and then a walk.

Going for a walk helps everything – you get some sunshine, hear the birds, see what other people are doing. It gets you outside and feeling instantly more socially connected and you can do this in a wheelchair or with a walking frame.

Your home care may start with a simple walk out every week, especially if you do not like walking on your own because you do not feel safe.

A good feed out is always a good day out too!

What changes did you see in people’s lives in supporting them at home?

They are able to become more positive and happier, their ailments are reduced, they appear more in control, and their appetites are better as well.

I also feel that the relationship with the family is often improved because the pressure is taken off the family when the parent is able to accept some help in their lives.

Some older people are concerned that they will lose their independence if they receive home care, what can you say about this?

I strongly feel the opposite. I have seen that it keeps them independent and healthier for longer. Receiving home care does not mean that they hand over every little responsibility. They are still accountable for their lives, decisions and chores, they just get a little bit of help.

We help with personal care, having someone in the house while you have a shower or get dressed as the carer can help with anything that is not as easy to do or be with you to help with balance in case you fall.

Staying healthy is another way we help. We can help with shopping and make sure you have fresh food in the house. Someone is there to help reach your favourite foods in the supermarket that are often on the top shelf or bottom shelf. When you get home we help put the shopping away, check the due dates on perishable foods, and help you make dinner.

Getting home care can help reduce the limitations and vulnerability of ageing and losing independence, home support can make the difference to staying at home for longer.

What is your advice to people who may be worrying about getting older and how they will cope at home on their own?

Do what you can, light duties, write your shopping list. Let us assist with groceries and reaching the high shelves and have someone else carry the bags to the car. Let us unscrew tight jar lids before we put them in the fridge. “Everyone needs some help sometimes, getting some help can help you stay at home for longer”.

Getting a little bit of help where it counts goes a long way.

Embrace carers into your life, we often become your new friend. And our clients look forward to having a visit from us as their carers to help or just sit and chat.

I find fellow care staff at St Louis Home Care are very passionate about being around older people we like to share stories we are committed to providing great care and experiences every time we visit our clients.

The best part of the job is helping keep the client’s minds young, I do this by comparing life stories about what life was like when they were young, talking about their children and grandchildren and often sharing a laugh about what the next generation are up to.

Why is it important to you to have an elderly people in our community that are looked after?

I will be elderly one day hopefully, and I hope to have the same support as what I like to offer. The elderly keep history alive by sharing stores about childhood and it is fun and interesting to share comparisons among generations.

It teaches young children respect, compassion and empathy when you see elderly people out and about. It is important to me knowing that they can stay at home. I want the opportunity to live at home for as long as possible too seeing older people living at home with care reassures me that I will have the opportunity to live at home and get help too.

Is there anything else you would like to share about home care?

Social programs provided through home care are a wonderful way of making new friends and staying connected in your community. It is never too late to make new friends. The benefits also extend to the family members who feel a sense of assurance that their loved ones are getting out and about.

Sometimes the social program can include any outing a family member cannot take you to. It can be as simple as a cup of coffee, a movie at the cinema, a trip to the beach, a sneaky afternoon ice cream treat or even making it to a funeral or family function.

I’ve also noticed people who are actively involved in the social program stay at home for longer. And the older you are the more fun you have, you just need to ask any of the 97 year olds who have been on our bus trips!

To find out more about St Louis Home Care and our social programs, please call St Louis Home Care Adelaide on 08 8332 0950 or St Louis Victor Harbor on 08 8552 1481.

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