How do family members prepare for the day their senior needs more help? The kind of help that requires loved ones to re-prioritize their lives. If only there were a date set aside for this change in everybody’s life. Planning on change at this level has never been easy because a plan may not be in place. A sudden fall, or illness could change everything and it could happen at any time.
Our seniors can have active lives up until the day they don’t. Family members may have to change directions, suddenly. This may involve taking time off work and moving other commitments to the back burner. There are some signs that show us our senior may be needing a bit more help. Here are a few to look out for:
• AGE — The older your senior is, the closer they will be to needing help, especially if they are slowing down physically.
• MEMORY — Forgetfulness could be a sign of illness affecting the brain or other systems, but it generates worry for family members who leave their senior alone for long periods of time.
• DRIVING — If your senior is not driving anymore, because it is not “safe” due to visual problems, mobility issues, or cognitive concerns, this may be a sign that other tasks may not be as easy for them as well.
• WEIGHT LOSS OR DEHYDRATION — These are real concerns that indicate they are not eating or drinking enough. Frequent urinary tract infections may indicate not enough fluid intake or poor personal hygiene in the bathroom.
• UNPAID BILLS/UNOPENED MAIL — Seniors like to have control over their finances until there comes a day when they stop opening their mail. This is a clue they are either forgetting or it’s not a priority for them anymore.
• FREQUENT PHONE CALLS AT WORK — If family members are receiving frequent calls during the day from their senior, it may mean things are about to change. This can indicate loneliness, forgetting that they just called, or anxiety about something they cannot control.
• FALLS — This could be the “last straw,” especially if there is an injury. Family members may have to find outside help, to monitor their senior for safe mobility while they are away at work.
Just like planning ahead for disasters, planning for the day your senior needs help should be a priority. Life can be busy and noticing some of the scenarios listed above should be on your radar. Of course, your senior will deny they need help, and may say something like, “I don’t want you to worry about me, I can take care of myself.” If you feel that twinge in your gut telling you that what you are seeing is not consistent with what they are saying, don’t ignore it! Now may be the time to move into a different role for your senior, or ask for help.
AGING IN HAWAII EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH PROGRAM
by Attention Plus Care — a program providing resources for seniors and their families, covering different aging topics each month. For class information and upcoming topics, call 808-440-9356.