Holidays are a time when generations of a family will come together. They are often hectic and crowded, or
quiet and alone. For many families, the holiday offers an opportunity to visit with elders in the family.
This holiday may be a time you notice an aging family member or friend isn’t who you remember. Physical changes, emotional changes, or psychological changes may be apparent. This may be confusing to you and uncomfortable.
Family Members: You are in a difficult position. You understand that your elder wants to remain independent and feel a sense of empowerment and self worth. While you want to respect and honor these feelings, your desire to keep the elder(s) safe conflicts with their wishes. Understanding when and how to intervene is difficult.
Elders: Possibly aware of the changes or not. For couples, the desire to hide changes exhibited by your partner in order to remain together is very common. Awareness of change may or may not be present. Fear of loss is significant – loss of independece, fear of loosing family wealth, fear of illness.
Signs an Elder Need Assistance
- Personal Hygiene: Have you noticed a change in their hygiene habits? Is their clothing appropriate for the time of day and season of the year? Changes in this area can be signs an older adult is having trouble with personal care.
- Less Social:Has an always involved and social elder withdrawn from favorite pastimes and organizations? It might be a sign they are having problems with transportation or that they are aware something is wrong but aren’t sure what it is.
- Depression:Elders who are isolated or live alone are at higher risk for depression. If the elder appears tired, uninterested in carrying on a conversation or is sleeping a lot, it might be time to intervene. Make an appointment with their primary care physician.
- Falls:Have they experienced any falls or near falls? Is your elder struggling with balance problems or are they a little unsteady on their feet? Older homes may not be the safest environment for a senior who is experiencing mobility issues. Falls remain the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal elder injuries.
- Accidents:When an elder driver bumps their car in to things like a curb or the garage door, it might not seem like a serious concern. But small accidents can indicate they may not be safe behind the wheel of a car any longer. Slower reflexes, problems with vision and hearing loss are just a few reasons why.
- Housekeeping:If your elder has always kept a tidy house it is usually easy to spot when there might be a problem. Is laundry piled up? Is the trash overflowing? A dirty house is not only a sign a loved one is struggling, it can also present health and safety risks.
- Finances:Is your elder safely managing their finances? There are a few ways to tell. Are bills stacked up unopened on their counter or desk? Another tip off is calls from bill collectors. When an elder is having trouble keeping their financial house in order, they may pay some bills twice while neglecting others.
- Being Scammed:Criminals target seniors. They believe them to be lonely and confused. It puts older adults at higher risk for fraud and scams such as fake sweepstakes prizes, phony roofing companies and identity theft. If your loved one has fallen victim to a scam, it might be a sign they need to make a move.
- Nutrition:Look inside the pantry and refrigerator. Are they full of out-of-dated foods? Does your senior loved one’s diet seem to consist primarily of fast food? Poor nutrition can contribute to a variety of health conditions, as well as increase their risk for a fall
- Mismanaging Medication:Mistakes with medication are a leading reason elders are taken to emergency departments. Some take too much medication and others forget to take it altogether. That’s why medication management is one of the most commonly utilized services in senior living communities.
It may be time to have ‘that’ conversation with your family and the elder(s). If one or two of these behaviors are observed, it is time to consider aging in place, transition to a senior community, or minor changes in the home. The goal is to provide the elder a safe environment, independence, and preserve family wealth.
T3’s Advocacy and Traditional Transition services will lift the weight of aging off your shoulders.