By Carol Marak
Adult children and family members often put off the inevitable concerns and difficult decisions that are lurking ahead for aging relatives. We all fall short in this area. It's not because we don't care about how our aging loved ones live out their lives rather, it's because the topics involved can leave us with little to no control; therefore creating caregiver stress.
There is a way to gain a calmer relationship with the aging process. The first step is to accept that “we will all get old”. Once accepted, we can now move our thoughts from dread to ease. Most of us know that if the negative perspective of an idea or act is changed, so can the emotions behind the thought. It’s usually our negative feelings that affect the outcome of a situation more than the action. A better perspective for someone to adopt would be “prevention and of planning”. When it comes to caregiving and elder care, it’s better to get ahead of the curve by using advanced planning techniques. That takes us a long way toward easing caregiver stress for the family caregiver. And, in the event of an emergency, all parties will be prepared to manage through what could be a difficult situation.
Here are practices that help family members get ahead with advance planning. The first step in planning is to allow your loved one to be involved in choosing how they want to be cared for. This gives them the feeling that they are in control. As we age, many of us will need the help of another because of an illness or disease. When this happens, it’s reassuring to know that we can choose how we want to be cared for.
The following questions will help adult children know what to look for when planning the best care for aging loved ones.
1. Ask how they want to live. Do they want to continue living at home? How do they want that to look? If you have siblings or other family members, get them involved in the conversation. Check out the local senior services that could assist them stay at home like; in-home care, adult daycare, senior centers, and other programs.
2. Make note of how the senior functions on a daily basis. It is important to know whether they can care for themselves. Some may require assistance, such as with keeping up with laundry or getting to appointments.
3. Are they eating properly? What about nutrition? Are they able to cook? When in the kitchen, check the refrigerator and pantry to make sure they are well stocked with nutritious food. This may be a good time to see if food in the refrigerator is spoiled.
4. Are unpaid bills lying around? Aging seniors can become forgetful and neglect to pay bills on time.
5. Is the aging person still driving? If so, you will want to assess their driving skills. They may have been driving twice as long as you have, but you must assess if it is still safe for them now.
6. Watch for any balance issues. Is your loved one having difficulty with their balance? They may tell you when it occurs. By observing how they walk or go up and down stairs will tell you a lot.
7. Do they easily misplace important items like wallet, keys, phone or important documents? Ask them about recent events to see what they recall.
8. Are they taking their medications properly? Do they keep them organized? Or are you finding the medication bottles scattered over the house; on the bathroom counter, in kitchen drawers and cabinets, nightstands, etc.
9. Have them tell you what precautions they plan to take in order to feel safe in their home.
10. Make sure the shoes they wear fit properly. Do the shoes have a non-skid sole and do they support their weight? Consider replacing the shoes every three to four months. If you are not sure which type of shoe is appropriate for them, contact a podiatrist.
11. Be aware that your aging relative may experience loneliness and depression. When depressed, a senior’s hygiene will begin to suffer. Check their closet to see if clothes are clean.
12. Are they able to continue their spiritual beliefs? What about the social needs? They should not be isolated from the rest of the world.
13. Are they active? What type of activities are they involved in?
14. What type of daily exercise do that participate in?
This is a good start in preparing for the aging process. You will not be able to complete the list in one visit but being aware of what needs to be addressed will serve as a good solution.
Carol Marak is founder of Carebuzz.com (http://carebuzz.com), a platform of websites targeting local senior care help for family caregivers and the aging senior they care for. Carol is a former caregiver for her aging parents. She experienced the frustrations of searching for local elder care help while living at a distance from her loved ones. That’s why she created Carebuzz. She plans to grow the city sites to be a leading local resource for caregivers.