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Independence Checklist for Aging Parents
We have just completed celebrating another birthday for our country, Independence Day. And this started me thinking about clients of our home care agency in the Phoenix area . Are senior citizens independent? I hope they are. Or are they also alone and maybe even lonely? If you are a family caregiver then this is something you should be aware of.
I think it is fair to say that at one or more times in our lives we have been alone. Other times while not alone, we were lonely and yet other times we might have been alone and lonely. I know it is kinda getting into semantics but I feel there is a difference.
I think that being alone for short periods of time can be handled by most of us and sometimes it can be quite beneficial. Loneliness can also be managed, and with all the electronic distractions that we have within arms reach, none of us seem to tolerate loneliness very long.
But it is a different story with seniors, our aging parents. If our parents are living independently then we have a tendency to not check in on them on a regular basis. If they are living with us then we are more aware of what is going on with them.
And what is going on with them and how should we care for our aging parents? Many times seniors are very good at deceiving and misleading. Are they lying? No, not really, but many times they are not being fully truthful about their physical condition as well as how they are emotionally and psychologically.
In conversations with our clients we have learned that if the seniors wear a big smile and firmly state that everything is OK that their children will be less likely to take over areas of their lives that they want to control themselves.
It is all about independence.
But the senior walks a fine line here because they still want the children in their lives and if the children think that there is nothing to worry about then they don’t need to call or stop by as much.
So here are five quick tips for keeping your aging parent or loved one independent.
1. It’s Feeding Time
Seniors need food probably more then you do. And they need it nutritionally sound. But the kitchen and the skill of cooking can be increasingly difficult for them. Recipes can be confusing even if written down and if they are trusting their memory well they could end up with an entirely different meal. Also more then a few house fires have been started by a senior forgetting that something was cooking on the stove.
How about having groceries delivered? Many chain stores are doing this now and the giant retailer Amazon will be rolling this service out in the near future. If you have a caregiver who comes to the home a few times a week then give them a list and have them do some shopping. Our caregivers love to do this especially when they are fixing meals for our clients.
There are also companies who will deliver prepared and pre-cooked meals to your parent and all they have to do is warm them up in a microwave.
2. It’s Cleaning Time.
My mother in law lives with us but when she lived on her own she was an immaculate housekeeper. But then we started to see dirt on the floor, grease on the stove and really her place was just not being kept up. It’s not that she was lazy, she just didn’t see the dirt.
As you age you just cannot do what you once could and scrubbing floors, vacuuming carpeting and doing laundry is something that can cause real damage to a seventy year old body.
Cleaning services can come in once a week and do the heavy stuff which will take a load off your parents yet they can still do the dishes and some dusting. These services usually will have to spend several hours there getting the house clean initially but then the hours should go down once it is brought up to a certain level. Our caregivers will do light housekeeping, meal preparation and run errands but we leave the heavy, big cleaning to the pros.
3. It’s Safety Time.
You cannot be in your parent’s home 24-7 so here are a couple of things you might want to look at.
First there are home monitoring systems that include a “panic button” that your parent must wear at all times. One of the problems here of course is that your aging parent must wear it or have it within arms reach at all times.
Another option is a wireless surveillance system like this one which is for sale on Amazon but I have also seen similar systems at Sam’s Club and Costco. The systems differ in the amount of cameras included, if they are wireless or not and the cost. But don’t get a system that you cannot access through the internet and your smart phone. Listen, your parents checked up on you now it is your turn to check up on them.
Another thing you might pick up is a lock box for the front door. Take a look at this post where I talk about how a $30 lock box can possibly save you thousands of dollars to replace a door when the Fire Department responds to a 911 call and forces entry.
4. It’s Social Time
As people age they become less connected to their family, friends and community. With your help they will stay connected to the family and with a little internet training they can stay connected with their friends. Facebook usage among seniors has skyrocketed and it can be a lot of fun for them if you are patient in your training. Hint: don’t try to explain how it all works and how to use groups, insights or many of the other FB elements just take little bites (or should I say bytes?) and bring them along slowly.
As for community here is a great idea. A three wheel bike! It will get them outside in the fresh air and get some exercise to boot. Most come with a basket of some sort which could carry groceries, books or what have you. Even if they have no destination in mind just a spin around the neighborhood will boost their spirits and give them a feeling of relevancy and independence.
5. It’s Columbo Time
Remember the 70’s TV show Columbo? This disheveled detective would walk around a person’s apartment or office and look for clues all the while keeping up a conversation with the possible suspect. So when you are at your parent’s place put on your trench coat and look for clues. What are you looking for? Expired medication mixed in with current meds, rotten food in the fridge, past due notices, trip hazards like throw rugs and extension cords, body odor etc. Anything that might give you a heads up that mom is not doing as great as she tells you. Don’t get confrontational remember you are on her side even though she suspects different.
Hopefully these will get you started and if you have any tips that you would like to share, please post them in the comments below.
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