Assessing my loved one's situation

By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Dr. Marion

If you are living locally and can visit your loved one, it's important to be aware of his or her needs. In no way do you want to usurp independence and authority. Get him/her involved in the decision making process in a direct, open way. There has to be open communication. Find out what your elder needs. From his/her perspective, you might be arriving with your own ideas and concerns, while he/she may have a different set of priorities and needs.

Now if you're a long-distance caregiver and cannot physically be there on a regular basis, this is an added complication. You can enlist the help of someone who lives closer to your elder loved one. Sometimes other family members can be called into service, or your loved one's best friend or neighbor. If the finances are available, I suggest hiring a professional geriatric care manager to handle things for you.

There are many basic warning signs you need to look for to assess your loved one's situation. I start by determining a person's level of activities of daily living (bathing, eating, toileting, medications, and social outings). Once you see how he/she handles daily life, you can move forward with some other questions that need to be answered right away.

These include:

  • Is the house or apartment generally safe, both inside and out?
  • Can he/she make clear, independent decisions?
  • Can he/she self-medicate, or do the meds need to be poured/organized?
  • Is mail opened in a timely manner?
  • Are bills paid on time?
  • Is food in the refrigerator fresh, wholesome, and edible?
  • Is his/her general appearance up to his/her regular standard?
  • Is your loved one keeping up with a social life or is he/she withdrawing from family and friends and events like the holidays?
  • Can he/she drive or use public transportation or does your loved one have a higher need of assistance to remain mobile?

Approaching your caregiving challenge this way gives you a path to follow that will make elder care easier. Your loved one is truly blessed to have you care for them and address their needs, and I applaud your efforts.

©2007 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc.


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