Have you ever heard the term, “sandwich generation”?
Far from being about food, this is a name given to a particular group of adults who face pressure from all sides: the stress of raising children, trying to grow their career, and caring for their own parents, who are reaching ages of reduced mobility or cognitive decline. Altogether, this can create a perfect storm of stress – known as ‘caregiver fatigue’ – as multiple competing priorities clash; after all, how do you choose between your kids and your parents when both are in need of your attention?
While there is no perfect solution that will suit every family situation, the good news is that there are many forms of in-house assistance available that can help alleviate the load on a caregiver. For parents who are aging in place at home, many of these customizable (and beautiful) functional aesthetic installations will enhance their independence and abilities, while giving selfless caregivers a well-deserved break.
1) Making Space for Caregivers’ Mental Health
A 2018 study found that approximately 7.8 million Canadians provided some form of care for family or friends with long-term conditions, disabilities, or issues related to aging. That’s about one of out every five people in the country! Furthermore, the same study found that women were disproportionately affected, accounting for 54% of all Canadian caregivers and sometimes providing more than 20 hours of care each week.
Clearly, this is a major shift that should be carefully considered. There are only so many hours and so much energy available in the day; since many of these caregivers also work full-time and raise their own families, they are stretched thin, and it is very easy to fall out of balance. This shortage of time also makes it hard for caregivers to unwind with their favourite activities, self-care, or hobbies, compounding the feelings of burnout and stress.
While there is assistance for this exact situation – such as the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Caregiver Resources, or the Canadian Mental Health Association’s “Care for the Caregiver” guidelines – these are unable to address the root cause of the burnout. The ideal solution is to find ways to increase independence of aging or disabled parents without compromising on their safety or dignity. Often, the best way to do that is to start right at home and ‘bake in’ those solutions right into their everyday space.
2) Getting Additional Help for Certain Tasks
While it may not be feasible to hire another full-time caregiver, there are options available for specific tasks. For example, the MyLifetimeHome™ MYHomeConcierge™ program is a service that sends skilled representatives to the homes of our clients and their families, helping to maintain and care for their home and removing the need for aging loved ones to do repairs on their own.
By performing tasks like paint touch-ups, trash removal, gutter and yard maintenance, light bulb replacement, and many others, we ensure the highest standards are met while keeping our clients safe and sound in their home. It is an excellent option to reduce the workload and pressure on caregivers, who are already giving so much.
3) Renovating a Home to Help Caregivers
Imagine how nice it would be if everything in your home was automated and designed just for you. You’d never trip on another step, struggle with the cord for your blinds, or fumble around for a light switch in the dark. You’d never have to stand on your tiptoes to reach the highest shelf, because the contents would simply lower down to you. How fantastically convenient!
Now imagine having a home like that…except designed around parents who are aging in place and experiencing reduced abilities. That’s just the start of what accessible home renovations can provide for caregivers and their parents! Having smart, thoughtful designs integrated into daily life (like those you get with MyLifetimeHome™’s 5 Step Process for renovations) can be the difference between constant stress and a relaxed confidence in your parents’ safety.
Here’s how accessible design for aging in place works:
Kitchens are based on the homeowner’s abilities and lifestyle
We spend a lot of time in the kitchen throughout our lifetime – hundreds of hours per year spent cooking, and many more spent talking, laughing, and connecting with our loved ones. Kitchens are considered the heart of the home, and ensuring your parents can continue to use theirs independently can be one of the single biggest factors in reducing caregiver burnout.
Accessible kitchen design starts with small – but absolutely vital – details, such as generous traffic flow incorporated into floor plans, wall placement, types of flooring used, and proper transition points. This improves visibility, maneuverability, and safety, helping to prevent falls and other potential accidents. Beyond that, good lighting makes it easy to see any area of the room during early mornings and evenings.
The rise of smart technology has absolutely revolutionized what is possible in kitchens, even for seniors who may not yet be familiar with its full capabilities. Everything from light bulbs, blinds, cabinets, refrigerators, thermostats, and appliances can be controlled via a smartphone or tablet app – making it easy to use and monitor remotely. Smart technology and home devices can help restore independence and the pride of a home-cooked meal to people who thought they would never get it back, and that’s a priceless result that any caregiver can absolutely appreciate.
Finally, intelligent design of the fixtures within the kitchen can bring the whole room together. Lowered countertops, induction cooktops, open spaces that accommodate wheelchairs or walkers, pulldown racks, and motorized drawers and cabinet trays make life so much easier for chefs and helpers alike. It is truly amazing how much vitality and personal satisfaction can be restored just by upgrading this one room!
Bathrooms are holistic, safe, and stylish
Falls are the #1 cause of injuries for seniors, and at least half those occur at home. One of the most common areas for this to happen is the bathroom – often due to a combination of cramped designs, low lighting, little mobility, and slippery floors.
For this reason, one of our main recommendations for caregivers wanting to make a home more accommodating is to create a bathroom space that will work for their aging-in-place loved ones – now, and with considerations for a future that also includes enough space for caregivers to assist them if necessary.
An exceptional, beautiful, and elegant bathroom design relies upon four key considerations – lighting, space, physical supports, and fixtures/accommodations. When those are in harmony and attuned to the homeowner’s lifestyle and specific needs, the risk of injuries can be mitigated to a high degree. In the unthinkable circumstance that one does happen, we can even ensure that help is notified automatically through the use of smart technology.
Imagine the peace of mind that comes with knowing that even when you are not present, your parents or loved ones have all the support they need to live an independent life, and that you will still get a rapid response in case of emergency.
Imagine their joy when they realize that all of this can be installed in a stylish, aesthetically pleasing way – without the cold, clinical feel that you might expect.
That is what a professional, tailored bathroom renovation can do. In short, many caregivers can reduce the burden they carry without having to feel any guilt about doing so.
Purposeful home designs and technology make a caregiver’s job easier
Those two rooms (kitchens & bathrooms) are simply the start of what is possible with a home that enhances quality of life for people aging in place. But each home is different, and each person’s needs will vary; that’s why there is no single solution that will universally apply to every situation, but there are universal design features to bake in that fit the most relevant needs.
When it comes to helping caregivers and making the best choices for aging-in-place considerations, there is a delicate art and science involved. Like any discipline, it takes time to learn and a lot of practice to perfect. But we are confident that we can help caregivers find the best way forward – because our owner and founder, Paul Klassen, actually helped developed the national standards for aging-in-place certification in Canada, and our team was the first one in Calgary to pass the qualification exam in order to teach others.
Caregiver Resources through MyLifetimeHome™
As a leading provider of aging-in-place renovations in Calgary and the surrounding area, we love to help our clients solve problems and remain proactive in their pursuit of a better quality of life. To that end, we have many associated services for caregivers within our reach that we would be thrilled to share.
Should you need any assistance, advice, or answers on how you (or a caregiver you know in your life) can reduce the risk of burnout while maintaining your aging parents’ dignity and safety, please do not hesitate to reach out and start a conversation. We are here to help all Calgarians age proudly and gracefully, and we would be honoured to earn your trust by providing an exceptional space for your family.