Vail Daily column: Use holiday visit to check on loved ones
December 9, 2013
Are you going home for the holidays? If you are, in addition to celebrating take a moment to make sure your older loved ones are still capable of managing their daily lives on their own. Often older adults need some help to stay safe and healthy, but don't like to admit it.
This simple checklist may help determine if a loved one may need some help to stay at home.
Assess how they look
Check their appearance:
• Are they wearing appropriate clothing?
• Is there a drastic change in their clothing choices?
• Are their clothes clean?
• Is there any inappropriate body odor that could indicate difficulty bathing, washing their hair or brushing their teeth?
• Have they made any drastic changes to their appearance — wearing more or less makeup, not wearing dentures, etc.?
Appearance may be a clue that the activities of daily living may be becoming more difficult. It's also a potential indicator of deteriorating vision and possibly changes in mental acuity.
Assess the condition of the house
Take a look around the home:
• Is the refrigerator appropriately stocked?
• Is the house at its usual level of tidiness or is there a change?
• Are dishes and laundry being taken care of in a timely manner?
• Is there expired food in the pantry?
• Ask about meals — are they eating enough food? What about their water intake?
• Are medications organized or are there expired medications or bottles all over the house?
A change in housekeeping and food choices can indicate your loved one is having difficulty managing every-day shopping, cleaning or cooking.
Ask about their routine
Talk about their daily routine:
• Ask about activities and friends — are they still participating in things they enjoy? Are they able to get themselves to where they want to go?
• Ask about their doctor appointments — do they understand their medications? Have they skipped or missed appointments?
• Check on the bills — are they paying bills on time or is the mail being ignored?
Giving up activities, missing appointments and ignoring the mail are all signs that an older person may need help. They're also signs of possible depression, an issue that affects older Americans at alarming rates. If you notice a change in interests or participation in activities you may want to speak with their doctor to rule out medical issues and look into assistance for them.
HARD TO ADMIT THEY NEED HELP
Staying home is typically the goal of most seniors. But the reality may be that caring for a home and managing the activities of daily living can become increasingly difficult as we age. Many seniors are afraid to admit that reality because they fear losing their independence or admitting they need help. A holiday visit represents an ideal opportunity for adult children to assess older family members' living situations and to see if home care could help them.
Do not turn a blind eye on a family member or friend that shows signs of needing assistance. A simple fall can open Pandora's box. A mistake in taking the wrong medication or not taking the prescribed medication at all can cause devastating issues.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.