Advice for families and whānau
Ways to support older people
We spoke to around 100 New Zealanders over the age of 65, and many told us they felt much younger than the age on their birth certificate. This is in line with international research which shows that on average, retirees feel between 10 - 20 years younger than their actual age.
We also found that older people:
- are very sensitive to being told what to do (especially if it's presented as being for your own good)
- don't want to be a burden to their families
- dislike using walking aids (as it makes them feel frail and old).
Our advice to those of you supporting older family members is to be collaborative and understanding if you can see they need help. There are also practical ways you can help:
Fall-proofing with the home safety checklist
This checklist helps older people eliminate common trips, slips, and falls hazards around their home.
Discussion checklist – things a health professional will want to know
This checklist provides your family member with helpful prompts to take to their next doctor's appointment.
Know the basics about your friend or relative
If your friend or relative lives alone, make sure you know:
- where they keep their spare keys
- friends or neighbours names and phone numbers
- their doctors name and phone number
- any health concerns or medications they currently use.
Check in regularly
Older people have told us that sometimes they don’t like to tell their friends and family when they’ve hurt themselves. They don’t want to be a burden, and they like to keep their health private.
To make sure they're safe:
- set up a regular calling schedule and if you:
- can’t get hold of them and you’re worried, let yourself in using the spare key
- don’t live locally, see if a friend of neighbour can pop over and make sure everything is fine.
Check and recognise the signs of concussion
Concussion is a brain injury. You don't need to bang your head or even lose consciousness to experience a brain injury. If you suspect someone you care for has concussion, contact their doctor as soon as possible.
Preventing pressure injuries
When you stay in one position too long your skin and flesh can get damaged. You could be sitting or lying down, or if you’re sitting up in bed, sliding down can injure your bottom and heels. Pressure injuries are also known as bedsores, pressure sores, pressure areas, or pressure ulcers. They can develop in a matter of hours.
Preventing pressure injuries if you’re in bed:
- Change your position every two to three hours, moving between your back and sides
- Use pillows to stop your knees and ankles touching each other, particularly when lying on your side
- Try to avoid creases in your bed linen
- If sitting up in bed, be aware that sliding down can cause injury to your bottom and heels
- Ask for help if you need it.
If you’re in a wheelchair:
- Relieve pressure by leaning forward, or leaning side to side for a few minutes every half hour.
What else you can do to help:
- Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids
- Keep your skin clean and dry
- Ask your nurse to help you with any incontinence.
Talk to your nurse, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, doctor or dietician who can help you plan your care to prevent pressure injuries.
For further information, please head to https://www.nzwcs.org.nz/resources/stop-pi-day
There are also some patient-focused brochures available in 15 languages. To order these, please go to ACC's online ordering system
Personal medical alarms can provide families with peace of mind. The person wears or carries the alarm and if it's activated it sends out an alert. There are several systems on the market so shop around for one that suits.
Also make sure your friend or family member knows that no one will think they’re a nuisance if they activate it. After a lifetime of looking after other people, they sometimes forget there are people out there who can look after them.
Ministry of Health resources
The Ministry of Health has a list of support services and websites for older people.
The list of services for older people include:
- rest home certification and audits
- support services for older people
- what you can expect from home support services
- what to do if you have a concern about your home support services
They've also compiled a list of useful websites for older people.