Getting old doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a long process that takes years. During this process, we experience age-related changes, and 70% of people will need some form of long-term care throughout the stages of ageing.
There are a number of age-related changes that we may face as we enter our later years. Many older adults find physical activity increasingly difficult, some may experience emotional changes and start to withdraw, and some will experience cognitive problems.
What Is the Typical Process of Ageing?
The ageing process is different for everyone, and there is no strict list of events that are guaranteed to happen. However, everyone will go through some age-related changes, and most will require assistance from family, friends, or formal caregivers, which is likely to increase as they progress through the stages of ageing.
As every situation is different, it’s impossible to predict how much and what type of care your loved one will need as they age. However, there are typical stages of ageing that most adults will follow.
The Stages of Ageing
- Stage 1: Independence
- Stage 2: Interdependence
- Stage 3: Dependency
- Stage 4: Crisis Management
- Stage 5: End of Life
Stage 1: Independence
During this early stage of the ageing process, the vast majority of older adults will stay in their own home. At this stage, they can still look after all of their needs such as transportation, finances and health care. They may have experienced a minor decline in mental and physical ability, but not enough to have an impact on their life. An older adult is still in good health with a high quality of life at this point.
Older adults in this stage likely won’t need much help in terms of caregiving but it may be a good time to talk to them about what they may need in the future and make necessary changes in preparation.
Stage 2: Interdependence
In stage 2, older adults are likely to start finding everyday tasks more difficult. Physical and mental activity will both decline, and they may start to forget things. During stage 2, they will be able to do many things on their own but not everything, and as such, their quality of life is likely to suffer if they do not have assistance.
A caregiver may be necessary to assist with one or more activities, such as driving, shopping, or paying bills. This can be one of the more difficult stages of ageing, as the older adult may be resisting asking for help, or may not feel comfortable engaging a formal caregiver. Offering regular help with the tasks that you notice they are struggling with is the most valuable course of action at this stage. It’s also important to ensure the older person is staying on top of any medicines that they have to take for conditions they may have.
Stage 3: Dependency
By stage 3, age-related changes are becoming more noticeable, and an older adult is likely to be experiencing difficulty doing a number of everyday tasks by themselves. Many older adults will be having more difficulty with physical and mental activity, and as such, it may no longer be appropriate for them to drive or travel to places independently.
The quality of life for older adults will be significantly impacted in the ‘Dependency’ stage, and as such, they will start to need more notable caregiving assistance. In some cases, this assistance will come from a professional healthcare provider, and in others, a family caregiver may take on the role. A caregiver may manage the older adult’s medication, monitor their physical condition and prepare meals. It may be necessary to make modifications to the home to ensure the safety of the older adult; for example, an emergency medical alert system may be necessary.
Stages 4 & 5: Crisis Management and End of Life
If a senior reaches the point of crisis management and end of life care, they will typically need to be monitored round the clock, as well as having access to formal health care facilities. At this point, it may be appropriate for the older adult to be in an assisted living facility, nursing home, or hospice.
If you’re currently caring for an older relative, or if you think you will be in the near future, you can find out information on the support available for carers from the Better Health Channel: Looking after yourself as a carer. If you want to find out more about the content of this blog, and how our courses or workshops may be able to help you as a carer, don’t hesitate to get in touch.