As people age, their needs change. Very capable, independent adults will require more help, even if they don’t think so. Do not just go on their “all is well” unless you’ve actually seen them recently. It may be true that things are fine but someday they may not be. Go on over and visit them. Get eyes on the situation.
Here are some practical things you can do to watch over these beloved senior citizens:
- Keep in touch. If they are still able to use a phone, call them but don’t leave it at that. Go visit them, too. They need to see your face. They need a hug. They need company. Do not take “no” for an answer. As conditions decline, older people often cover their tracks. They may be scared, embarrassed or clueless but they need you, now more than ever.
- Remember that they are still adults. Don’t talk down to older people, treat them with respect. Love them. Be patient. Remember that at one time they were the revered school teachers, engineers, doctors and CEO’s. They ran things!
- Ask if you can check their medicine cabinet. Look for expired prescriptions. Look for evidence that meds are not being taken properly. Help them stay on track with a pill organizer. Sit down together to fill it. Show them how it works.
- Go with grandma or grandpa to their doctors’ appointments. If you cannot get them into your car, find a medical transport service in your area and enlist their help. Be sure to go along, too, and bring their insurance card and medical records with you. Keep track of followup visits, as well.
- Fix things. Are there burnt out light bulbs to be replaced? Loose handles to tighten? Laundry to be done? Eliminate lifting and other difficult tasks making life easier and safer. Remove tripping hazards, such a throw rugs, that could cause a fall. Cut the lawn. Shovel the snow. Take care of the details.
- Check the refrigerator and cupboards. Are there expired foods that need to be thrown out? Is there enough food? Are they eating? Come eat with them whenever you can or bring them to your home for a meal. When you cannot do this, have meals ready in the freezer that can easily be prepared.
- Check their mail. Are there unpaid bills that need attention? Renewals of drivers’ licenses, insurance policies and such? Offer to go over their bank statements and credit card bills with them to be sure that their money is safe and all is well.
- Get an emergency medical alert call button. They can be worn as a bracelet or necklace. There are also styles that can be strategically mounted on the wall, table or counter-top.
- Monitors & alarms: Make sure that there are working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on each floor that sound an alarm. Install a baby monitor or “granny cam” if needed. Privacy is important but safety is all the more so. Let grandma and grandpa know it is there and what it is for.
- Recognize your limitations. Hire a visiting assistant to come by when you can’t. Reach out to other family members, helpful neighbors and your church. Build a support team so that you’re not in this alone.
- Put yours and other important phone numbers near the phone. Though they may have them memorized now, there may come a day that they won’t be able to recall them or how to use speed dial. In the same vein, put a readable calendar plus a pen near the phone for them to keep track of important dates.
- Enlist legal help. Attorneys who specialize in geriatric cases are a valuable resource. They can advise you on how to protect your parents / grandparents’ money and, if needed, walk all of you through applying for Medicaid and finding the other services you need.
What tips do you have for us that will help us protect and care for the older generation? Please share!
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