5 Ways To Determine Your Aging Loved Ones’ Living Status

By: Gina Saxton, Rn

5 Ways To Determine Your Aging Loved Ones’ Living Status
Taking Notice During Family Holiday Gatherings
Can Prevent a Crisis Later On
By Gina Saxton, RN

We live in a very mobile society where families don’t always live in the same town or even state for that matter. Unlike the “old days", entire families throughout America don’t have the opportunity to come together every week for a Saturday BBQ or Sunday dinner. Which is why the upcoming holiday season is such a busy travel time - families still cherish togetherness and the holiday season is often the only time of the year they can do so.

It is not uncommon for the adult children of seniors to have some concerns about how their parents are doing. This year while you’re enjoying the companionship of your family and catching up on lost time, make good use of your visit to review your aging parents’ and loved ones’ living status.

Many holiday traditions tempt your five senses. These five senses can also be used to evaluate the status of elderly family members. Families often overlook a variety of warning signs such as forgetfulness, lack of house cleaning or a decrease in physical appearance by writing them off to “old age". Below is a checklist using each of your five senses that lists key indicators or warning signs to help determine if your family members are in need of additional care or assistance:

SIGHT - Looking at the senior’s appearance can be a sign that they are being limited either physically or mentally from completing otherwise normal daily tasks.

Are they wearing clothing with food stains?

Is their hair completely combed?

Do their teeth appear clean?

Does she continue to wear makeup?

How do their shoes look?

Is the house orderly and clean?

SOUND – Listening to what and how seniors speak can tell you a lot about their current mental status. Don’t assume that “old age" is causing these problems; doing so can sometimes cause their mental state to decrease further.

Do they call you by name?

Are they speaking normally?

Are they up on the news?

Have they continued their outside activities?

Do they have future plans or goals?

If not, could they be depressed?

SMELL – Using your nose as an indicator can help you determine if your family member is bathing properly, participating in otherwise normal activities (cleaning their house), or whether or not they are eating regularly (if they have spoiled food in their kitchen).

Does their living environment possess any unpleasant odors?

Does the refrigerator or cupboards smell?

Are the plants thriving?

Is there an unusual amount of garbage, clutter, dust, or dirt?

TASTE – Tasting their food and sorting through their medications can help you determine if they are eating healthy or even worse, taking expired medicine.

Do they have fresh and stocked pantry items?

Look at the expiration dates. How does the food taste?

Does the person appear to move around the kitchen safely?

Are there many different prescriptions?

Do the medications come from different doctors or pharmacies?

What about the expiration dates on the medications?

TOUCH – A simple hug could tell you that your family member is fragile, losing weight and putting him or herself in jeopardy of injury or even malnourishment from not eating properly.

Do they appear healthy?

Touch their skin - is it soft, supple and is the color normal?

Do they have unusual tearing or bruising of the skin?

Are they losing weight?

How are their sight, hearing and taste?

If you sense a problem based on the above indictors, you and other family members should waste no time in taking the appropriate next steps. As difficult as the process might be, keep reminding yourself that by being proactive, as a result of your observations, you will not only provide safety for your family member, but will also keep them happy and healthy for years to come.

As a result of assisting hundreds of families throughout the Lorain and Cuyahoga County area during this difficult process, here is some advice based on the experiences we encounter every day while working with these families. Below are the next steps that you and your family should follow:

1.Discuss the situation with the individual - Don’t be afraid to ask or talk to your aging family members. Often seniors will not tell you if they are having trouble unless you ask. It is important to reassure seniors about your questions. They do not want to lose their independence and are afraid of being moved out of their home into a strange environment. Let them know about other care alternatives before you ask questions such as: Are you having trouble walking? Have you fallen? Do you have trouble driving at night?

2.Make a doctor’s appointment for the individual – Be sure and make the appointment when you, another family member or someone else can relay the concerns directly to the doctor. Sometimes these warning signs can be a direct result of outdated medication or perhaps a dosage that needs to be changed.

3.Determine what services are available in your community – Talk with your local social service agencies or community organizations such as Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging. It’s important to weigh all of your options when it comes to providing the best care for your family member.

4.Make minor adjustments in their lifestyle – It may be necessary to bring in outside help to provide companionship and to assist with daily activities such as meal preparation, light housekeeping, trips to their doctor’s appointments, etc. These precautions and changes can be done while allowing your loved one to stay in the comfort of their own home. But be cautious about hiring independent caregivers – you or your parent will be responsible for paying payroll taxes, worker’s compensation insurance, as well as screening and hiring the caregiver. Many reputable companies now exist that carefully screen their caregivers, handle all of the employment issues, provide on-going training, as well as taking care of bonding and insurance.

5.Use this time to plan ahead for unforeseen events – This is good advice for everyone, not just seniors! Take this time to establish advanced directives including establishing a power of attorney, will, living will, etc. There is no such thing as being too prepared.

Remember, the holiday season is a time for family, togetherness and establishing lifelong memories. By taking the time to address these issues before they reach the crisis stage, your family will have the much-needed sense of security, comfort and hopefully the ability to create new memories with your aging loved ones for many years to come!

Comfort Keepers can provide guidance and assistance to families throughout the Lorain and Cuyahoga County area. Comfort Keepers offers companionship and other non-medical services for aging adults, new mothers and others needing assistance. In-home services include personal care services, companionship, meal preparation, light housekeeping, grocery shopping, transportation and more. Comfort Keepers does not utilize independent contractors. All caregivers are hired employees who are carefully screened, bonded and insured. If you are in need of assistance or are interested in learning more about Comfort KeepersScience Articles, please call (440) 734-1111 or (440) 934-7575 or visit www.comfortkeepers.com.

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