Checking on your elder loved ones

granma and daughter

If you’re like most Americans, you don’t get to see your aging loved ones as often as you would like. The holidays offer an opportunity to visit with parents and grandparents. Given that 1 in 10 older Americans are abused and neglected, The National Center on Elder Abuse wants everyone to know what they should be looking for when visiting elderly loved ones to ensure that they are aging with respect and dignity.

For many of us, the holidays offer a time to visit with relatives who live at a distance. These visits are a good time to assess what assistance elderly loved ones may need to safely age in their homes. Before your visit prepare a checklist of things to look for and discuss.

Does the elder require help with chores, housekeeping, bathing, dressing, shopping, meal preparation, managing money, transportation or medications?

Are they isolated? How often do they have contact with others?

If they live with someone do they depend on that person for care and support? Is the person they live with physically and emotionally able to provide the needed care? Does the caregiver understand the medical conditions and how to manage them?

Are there warning signs of self-neglect, or abuse or neglect by others?

If you suspect that your loved one may need extra assistance before your trip, plan to spend extra time so you can arrange time with physicians, the Area Agency on Aging and attorneys. Make the most of your time by asking your loved one what they want their remaining time to look like. If they want to stay at home are they willing to accept some help? Is the home generally safe? Is it time to discuss life lines and grab bars in the bathroom? Allow time for them to express their feelings and needs, let them know that you are there to support their wishes and help them develop a support system that gives all concerned peace of mind.

Warning signs-Self-neglect
Person appears confused
No longer able to manage meal prep, bills, bathing & medications
Seems depressed
Drinking too much or abusing drugs
Falling frequently
Appears undernourished, dehydrated, under or over medicated, poor hygiene, incontinence

Warning signs of neglect or abuse by others
Presence of “a new best friend” who is helping out for little or no money
Recent changes in banking or spending habits
Isolation from friends or family
Caregiver has problems with drugs/alcohol, anger or emotional instability
Caregiver is financially dependent on the adult needing care
Senior seems fearful
Unexplained bruising or cuts
Bed sores
Appears dirty, undernourished, dehydrated, improperly medicated

What should you do?
If you suspect your loved one is at risk call the local Adult Protective Services or the Area Agency on Aging. If the person lives in an assisted living or nursing facility call the local Long Term Care Ombudsman.

Introduce yourself to neighbors and friends, give them your contact information and ask them to call you in case of an emergency.

Ask your loved ones directly if they are afraid of anyone, if anyone is taking things without their permission or if anyone is asking them to do things they are not comfortable with. Offer reassurance and let them know that you want them to be safe and comfortable. We are blessed with many resources for older adults, help your loved one become educated and prepared.

Region 10 Community Living Services-970-249-2436 211
County Health and Human Services
National Center on Elder Abuse
Eldercare locator 1-800-677-1116

About the author

Eva Veitch