Getting on and Beyond
As an Options Counselor, I get calls frequently from family members, community members or friends concerned about an older adults’ well-being. Often the older adult has their children in for a visit to see mom and dad. Most often the kids call mom and dad daily or a couple times a week, but they have not seen them in 6-months or even years. Talking on the phone their parents sound good, they are eating, shopping, cooking and getting along just fine.
Callers are in Crisis Mode. There is spoiled food, dirty laundry, the yard is full of weeds, the mail is piled up, often the older adult has lost weight and has bruises and skin tears on their arms. Neighbors or community members may have concerns and stop by for a visit. When the subject about getting help comes up, the concerned party may hear, “Everything is fine. There’s no need to worry.”
Admitting they need help would mean they can’t take care of themselves anymore, and no one wants to lose their independence.
The first assumption is the older adult needs to go to an assisted living or nursing home, which most times are not the case. Just by adding some extra help in their home usually does it. We need to respect people who are no or mild cognitive impairment (no dementia) have the right to live their lives the way they chose and those with moderate cognitive impairments (Dementia) also have the right but may need some guidance. It is not up to us to choose how we think they should live. This can be challenging for people who have the older adults’ best interest at heart. I face this challenge on a weekly basis. I know if someone gets a life alert how much safer they are, or how home–delivered meals will help them stay healthy, but if they decline, we support and revisit later.
Here are some signs to help recognize if an older adult needs extra support?
Spoiled food that doesn’t get thrown away ; Missing important appointments; Unexplained bruising; Trouble getting up from a seated position; Difficulty with walking, balance, and mobility; Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks; Forgetfulness; Unpleasant body odor; Infrequent showering or bathing; Strong smell of urine in the house; Noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care;Dirty house, extreme clutter and dirty laundry piling up; Overdue payment notices, bounced checks and calls from bill collectors; Poor diet or weight loss; Loss of interest in hobbies and activities; Changes in mood or extreme mood swings; Forgetting to take medications – or taking more than the prescribed dosage.
The sad news is, many families do not know where to start, and the solution starts with looking at Assisted Livings and Skilled Nursing Facilities.
The good news assistance is available in community supports and services programs to remedy many of the concerns, that help seniors stay in their home safely.
Payment options: private pay, long-term care Medicaid waiver programs, instead of gifts pre-pay for home care hours, transportation or home-delivered meals, funding through the Area Agency on Aging, Veterans programs, Uranium Miner‘s programs or Long-term care insurance policies.
It is important the older adult is included in the conversations about their care. Start with your local Area Agency on Aging or community resource agency. This is a one-stop shop for unbiased resources. Options Counselors, Care Coordinators, Case Managers and Social Workers are well versed in programs and services that are available. They are also experienced in talking with seniors about supports and services.
Amy Rowan, ADRC Programs Coordinator, and Options Counselor, Region 10 – Area Agency on Aging, 765-3123.