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ll Elderly Family Members and Friends Need To Be Safe
Many family members are thrown into the situation of care giving because of a medical health crisis of a loved one. It is important to know what condition your loved one is in while they are in the hospital and the progress they are making. It is just as important to know your family memberís condition before they ever need to go to a hospital because of a medical health accident.
We usually know about our close family members or friends general condition if we are in close and frequent contact. But if we are away from our family member over a period of time or distance, we may not know very much about their condition.
I would like you to take this opportunity and think about what is your family network is like. Do those that you care about have someone looking out for them or are they capable of looking out for themselves? Widowed or divorced spouses and the single elderly may be more at risk for a medical health care crisis. Do your elderly family members care for their old elderly parents, relatives or friends? If so, their risk increases.
Many elderly individuals will not ask for help, not even the ones we love. Their pride and their fears keep them from asking. Their biggest fear is the loss of control just like you and I.
Consider contacting your elderly family members in the near future and ask how they are doing. Then plan a visit soon and see how they are really doing. What they say and what is really happening may not be the same. The only way to find out if they are still capable of getting their needs met is in person. Do they have a plan in place for potential events that may occur? Are they leaving it up to chance? Do they have advance directives in place? Do they have a plan just in case they have a medical health accident?
Maybe you are thinking why this should even matter to me at all? Why, because in the long run it may effect you. If they have a crisis, will someone contact you to take care of their personal matters and expect you to make choices for them? Whatís the real possibility? Or the worst case scenario that you read about in papersÖsomeone falling at home and they canít get up or reach the phone and days later they are found. You know. Dead. It happens. Then the people that could have done something live with some regrets.
Go visit just to check it out. Maybe they do have a plan and everything in place.
Here is a list of some signs to look for that may indicate that your family member or friend may not be coping well:
Appearance Ė Are they maintaining their usual appearance? Do they appear to have lost some significant weight over time an unreasonable amount of time? Are their clothes very loose? Are they using their eyeglasses or dentures? Layered clothing? Clean shaven? Make up? Clean clothing? Unreasonable body odor? Their hair?
Eating Habits Ė Have their eating habits changed? Are they still able to prepare food? Are they still safe while preparing food? Do they have adequate food in their home?
While eating are they coughing? While they eat does their nose run? Do they talk about difficulty swallowing?
Mobility - Is there a change in their posture? Are they having difficulty moving? Are they grabbing furniture to walk? If they have stairs or steps are they still able to use them?
Mood Ė Are they happy? Are they ejoying life? Are they still involved in hobbies or interest? Have they given up on any pursuits? Have they had any changes in social activity? Do they talk about fears or being lonely?
Memory - When you visit do they remember who you are? Do they talk about current events or the past? In the period of one hour are they repeating a story more than one time? Are they distractible? Do they change the subject? Are they able to make their needs known?
Home - Is the appearance of their living quarters in its usual state? Are there any foul smells? Has the trash been recently emptied? Is laundry excessively stacked up? Are their utilities still in service? Does the yard look different from its usual state?
Health Care - Have they been to their doctor? Are they on medication? Are they taking their medication as scheduled? Do they use a medication organizer? Can they afford their medication?
Public Safety - Are they still driving? Have they had any auto accidents? Are there unusual dents or scratches on their vehicle? Take a ride. Are they safe? Are they still able to get out and do errands? To they get lost? Do they forget where they are going?
If you recognize at least two or three significant changes, your family member may be having difficulty coping. It may be time to talk with them and see what kind of help they need. It is time to help them make a plan if they do not have one. Consider if they donít have a plan they are at an even greater risk of a medical health accident that has the potential for crisis.
If you observe many of these changes and your family member is in denial your may have to enlist the help of other supportive family. And still, if that doesnít work out for the best then you may have to provide what I call Tuff Love and contact your local family protective services. Family protective services will send out a social worker to assess for real problems and take the necessary steps to assure your family member or friends safety. Be sure to give them your name and phone number as a contact person if they may need your help.
You can find help at your State and Area Agency on Aging. To kind your click on this link: http://www.aoa.gov/eldfam/How_To_Find/Agencies/Agencies.asp
It is harder to begin caregiving at the onset of a crisis. It is easier to help your family member or friend by collaboratively designing a plan in case the unexpected happens. It all begins with talking and appreciating each otherís value. Older family members and friends do not want to be a burden on anyone. Help them remain in control for as long as possible. Letís keep our elderly safe!
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