Home for t he Holidays
No one expresses the sentiment of home more than Perry Como when we hear the lyrics to his beloved Christmas song, “Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays.” It is a warm and fuzzy emotion that many of us experience as we make plans to head “home” and visit our loved ones, especially aging parents, during the holiday season.
The holidays are a perfect time to assess your loved one’s need for extra help. Here are six signs that may indicate it is time to take action.
1. Are there dirty dishes in the sink?
This question may sound silly to you; however, when you first arrive at your loved one’s house, do you notice that there are dirty dishes in the sink? Are there layers of dust over the furniture, are the beds unmade and could the floors use a good sweeping and mopping? When was the last time that the bed linens were changed and washed? Often, small housekeeping tasks start to become more difficult as people age due to lack of stamina, physical limitations or pain.
2. Is the refrigerator empty or does it contain harmful foods?
Open the refrigerator and take a long look. Is the refrigerator empty? Is it full of expired foods? Just the thought of grocery shopping and/or cooking can be difficult for many seniors, especially those who have cognitive issues or suffer from depression resulting in malnutrition.
According to Life Care® Services, “with seniors, malnutrition is actually much more complex than just what you have (or don’t have) in the cupboard. A poor diet can also be caused by a combination of physical, social and psychological issues with each one playing a role in providing proper senior nutrition.”
Chewing or swallowing and/or the loss of dexterity in the hands through arthritis can make eating difficult or cause pain for many aging seniors.
If the refrigerator is stocked, what does it contain? Is the fridge full of sugary snacks and soft drinks when your loved one should be following a low-sugar diet? Does the refrigerator or freezer contain too many high-sodium pre-made meals that could affect blood pressure or congestive heart failure? The contents or lack of contents serve as a visual indicator of the need for help for your loved one.
3. Have you noticed unexplained weight loss?
When you first see your loved ones, are you surprised by their weight loss? Although it is normal for most of us to lose weight as we age, the Mayo Clinic reminds us that “unexplained weight loss can be the result of a lingering infection or illness that could get worse if not treated.”
If you notice that your loved one has lost weight, schedule an appointment with their doctor to discuss your observations. If the weight loss is a result of medication, then request their physician or pharmacist to perform a medicine reconciliation. Include all over-the-counter medications, vitamins and other supplements that may be taken.
4. Are there signs they have not taken their medication?
Are your loved one’s medications set up in a plastic “daily reminder”? Inspect the medication “reminder” to see if days have been skipped. If medications are stored in a basket or located in different locations throughout the house (kitchen, den and bathroom), are the bottles full or empty?
A full bottle may signal that medications have not been taken as prescribed. Likewise, if the medicine bottles are empty, how long have they been empty? Did your loved one stop taking the medication once the bottle was empty? Some medications, especially for depression, must be taken regularly, and not doing so can cause harmful side effects, including poor balance, which could result in devastating falls.
Unsure which medications or supplements your loved one should be taking and how often? Contact their physician and schedule a medicine reconciliation, as mentioned above. Involve your loved one in the process so that they understand the importance of taking the correct prescribed medications as scheduled.
5. Do you notice an increased concern of falling?
Is your loved one moving tentatively around the house and struggling to stand, bathe or walk?
Each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls. Falls can lead to moderate to severe injuries such as hip fractures and head traumas, which is the leading cause of injury or death among those aged 65 and older.
The National Safety Council points out that older adults with hip or bone weakness, arthritis, osteoporosis and blood pressure fluctuation are more prone for falls. Those suffering from neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease are also at an increased risk for falling.
Most falls happen at home and can be prevented. Simply using a cane, walker or similar aid as well as changes in housekeeping, lighting and furniture arrangement can make older adults less vulnerable to falling.
6. Do you worry about your loved one driving?
You worry about their safety and the safety of others, but you don’t know how to bring up the subject. We all age differently, and there is no set age to stop driving. If you feel your loved one should not be driving and experiencing health or cognitive issues causing your concerns, consult with their physician.
Many are worried that when they stop driving, they will not be able to do what they want and need to do. They may feel they are giving up their independence when they stop driving. Assure them that they are not alone, and there are many ways to get around without driving.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to ask for help. Having in-home caregivers will provide you peace of mind knowing your loved one is safe in the home they love. After all, home is where memories were made and are still being created.
Scott H. Green is a Certified Senior Advisor® and president of Preferred Care at Home of Northwest Louisiana. Green can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.