Action for Common Aging Concerns

Posted by on Sep 7, 2010 in Caregiving, Health Signals, Planning |

In previous newsletters, we showed how you can approach sensitive topics during holiday visits with aging parents. During the visit you may have noticed new areas of concern, or old problems that are calling for action. Now, you may feel anxiety or uncertainty about what to do next. Taking that first step, no matter how small, creates momentum towards positive change. Here are some first steps for common concerns:

1. Health
Changes in physical or mental health are usually at the root of all other challenges facing your aging parents.  Many factors combine to keep seniors healthy. Among the most important are good medical care, proper exercise and nutrition, and a sense of purpose and belonging.

A good first step is to become more informed about your parent’s health. Educate yourself about normal aging, and learn more about their chronic health conditions. With your parents’ permission, talk with their family doctor about your concerns.

2. Hygiene
Personal care may slip when a senior’s eyesight, physical energy, or state of mind are affected. First, gently point out some physical evidence (e.g., stained clothing) and share your concern. Encourage your parent to get a physical check-up and/or an eye exam. 

3. Housekeeping
Loss of strength or mobility can make household chores more difficult. Start a conversation about getting more help – either from other family members, or by hiring someone.

Some seniors are reluctant to ask for help or to invite “strangers” into their homes. Suggest that help with household duties may mean that your parents stay in their own home a little longer.

4. Hazards
Safety hazards at home increase when health and strength start to fail. Here are some simple adaptations that make life safer: rearrange cupboards to easily reach things, install grab bars in the bathroom, remove loose scatter rugs, and add brighter lighting, especially over stairways.

You can also look into personal emergency response systems. Worn on the wrist or as a pendant, they enable your parent to call for emergency help when they cannot reach a telephone.

Initiating some of these changes may require a “community” effort. That can mean recruiting help from other family members, friends, neighbours and/or getting outside help – private or public. In larger towns and cities, families can call on their local seniors’ resource centre for more information on support programs. In rural areas, churches and other members of the community traditionally step up to help neighbours.

Concerned families can also ask for an assessment of the senior by their local health authority, to see whether their family member (who must consent to the assessment) qualifies for public assistance.

Vol. 5, No. 1
© ElderWise Publishing 2009.
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