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Geriatric Care Managers
How to Tell if an Elder Needs Help
All too often, an elder wants to retain his or her independence, and doesn't want to become a burden on their loved ones. In order to maintain their independence, the elder may attempt to hide the fact that they are struggling, and are in need of assistance.
One way that you may learn of a problem, is when you receive a phone call in the middle of the night. When you answer the phone you hear "Your mother is in the emergency room, she's fallen and broken her hip." As the closest living relative you receive the call, and within minutes you are being faced new responsibilities as your mother's caregiver.
Not all problems occur as a crisis, but instead evolve in a gradual series of warning signs spanning weeks, months, or years. You may notice that the elder is having difficulty cleaning the house, cooking meals, paying bills, or that you are finding yourself speaking louder so that you can be understood.
A recurrent theme expressed, is the fear of broaching the subject of whether or not, an elder is capable of caring for themselves. In addition, once it is clear that the elder is in need of assistance, there is often confusion as to what is the best way to proceed. This is a delicate balancing act, ensuring an elder's health and safety, while maintaining their independence and dignity.
Warning Signs of a Possible Need for Help
The real challenge facing elders and their loved ones, is the ability to differentiate normal aging, from the warning signs that something may be wrong, requiring some form of intervention. It is important to note that we all have a bad day - our hair in uncombed, we forget an appointment, or we feel depressed; however a recurrent pattern may indicate a problem.
We are providing a list of some questions that may help you evaluate if there is a potential problem, but this list is only meant to serve as a guide. If a problem is suspected, the elder needs to be seen by a professional who can conduct a complete medical evaluation and a geriatric assessment, and help determine the best way to proceed.
1. Is the person experiencing any significant vision, hearing, or memory loss?
2. Is the person experiencing any anxiety, depression, or phobias?
3. Is the person oriented to time, place, and person?
4. Is the person able to read, write, and use the telephone without difficulty?
5. Is the person able to use public transportation, or arrange to take a cab?
6. Is the person able to perform routine housekeeping tasks (e.g. laundry, cooking, cleaning)
7. Is the person able to handle maintenance needs?
8. Is the person able to prepare meals and eat regularly?
9. Is the person able to bath independently?
10. Is the person able to dress appropriately?
11. Is the person able to manage their own finances?
12. Is the person able to handle their own banking and financial needs?
13. Is the person able to write checks & balance their checkbook?
14. Is the person able to exercise good judgment, and make sound decisions?
15. Is the person able to manage their own medications?
16. Is the person able to go shopping for groceries?
17. Is the person able to maintain relationships with family and friends?
18. Is the person able to walk, climb stairs, and remain standing?
19. Is the person able to easily and safely get up and down from a chair?
20. Is the person able to fall asleep and stay asleep?
21. Is the person able to remember family names, and appointments?
22. Is the person able to safely see & operate appliances?
23. Is the person able to drive?
24. Is the person able to hear the phone ring, and understand a conversation?
25. Is the person able to participate in leisure activities?
26. Is the person expressing any issues or concerns?
27. Is the person experiencing a sudden weight loss or gain?
28. Is the person experiencing any health concerns?
29. Is the person experiencing any bruises or cuts?
30. Is there any evidence that the person is the victim of fraud or abuse?
Communication is Key
It is only natural that when we become scared or concerned about an elder, our first impulse is to express our concerns, and immediately look to "fix" the problem. Unfortunately this can often make the situation worse. Unless you are faced with an emergency that threatens the elder's safety or well-being, it is wise to take some time to gather information and properly assess the situation, prior to taking any action.
As we said earlier, you are now faced with a delicate balancing act, ensuring an elder's health and safety, while maintaining their independence and dignity. Effective communication is key to ensuring that the elder and their loved ones can talk openly about their feelings, needs, and desires moving forward. Once the elder has shared what they would like to see happen, and you have gathered information about available resources, you can now work together on creating a realistic plan of action.
It is crucial to allow the elder a sense of influence and control regarding decisions affecting their future. If the history of your relationship with the elder, has been a difficult one, you may wish to seek assistance from a professional (e.g. care manager, doctor, or therapist) in order to map out a strategy for moving forward. Keep in mind that in order for there to be success moving forward, you will need cooperation and by in from the elder.
Don't Wait for a Crisis to Act
All too often, we receive a frantic call from an individual who is in the midst of a crisis situation, following an elder being involved in an accident, or experiencing a sudden illness. These individuals feel unprepared to respond to the situation, because they often lack basic knowledge regarding the elder's medical history, medications, insurance coverage, financial matters, or what the elder's wishes would be in the given situation. To ensure the highest quality of life for the longest time possible, it is crucial that elders and their loved ones, begin a dialogue to discuss the topic of aging. This process needs to focus on the elder's hopes and desires, short and long term goals, and their abilities and needs; while at the same time establishing a spectrum of resources that will address the elder's evolving needs.To obtain more information or to request a consultation click on Contact Us
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Employee Assistance Professionals, Inc. has over twenty five years of experience providing services for individuals, couples, families, and organizations. Our mission is to provide a broad range of high quality counseling, outreach, and consultation services to help clients assess their needs, evaluate their relationships, define their goals, and design action plans that includes specific and practical steps to achieve those goals.
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