There comes a time when the tides change, and we become a caregiver to those that raised us, drove us to soccer practice, dance recitals, and music lessons. They helped us brush our hair and taught us to brush our teeth. Now we are the ones helping with shopping, shuttling loved ones to doctor’s appointments, assisting with errands, and balancing checkbooks. One often overlooked (but just as important) task is helping your loved one maintain their oral health.
As a caregiver, our job is to help our loved ones stay healthy and safe. A large piece of that puzzle is to make sure they brush their teeth and continue to have regular exams and cleanings. As we age, some of us develop arthritis and lose the dexterity needed to brush our teeth properly. Some of us develop age-related memory issues making it easy to forget to care for mouths.
A broken tooth or denture can be painful, and if your parent or family member can’t effectively express what they’re feeling, they may start trading healthy foods for soft, carbohydrate-laden bread and cakes that offer little nutritional value.
But raiding their cabinets and brushing their teeth for them can strip them of what little control they still have over their lives which can result in low self-esteem and depression. With a little investigative work and patience, you can help your loved one stay healthy while allowing them some freedom.
Here are some tips for caregivers helping an elderly family member:
Becoming a caregiver is both an honor and a significant life change. It can be overwhelming but knowing that you can keep your loved one at home a while longer is a great reward. Remember that change can be hard for the elderly, too, especially if they have a cognitive impairment like dementia or Alzheimer’s. With these tips, helping your aging parent or family member keep their mouth healthy is one less thing to worry about.