Take notice during the holidays
With the holidays approaching, many have made plans or are making plans to visit with their parents and loved ones. Some family members haven’t been together for quite a while, and this is an exciting time to celebrate being with one another. Because the Holidays are a time to share happiness and express your appreciation for loved ones, it is important to recognize the things may have changed since the last visit. In this regard, it is important to observe your parents and their surroundings to determine if they need additional help living independently.
Changes at Home
Appearance of Home – Does it seem like the home needs more maintenance than usual? Offering to help with whatever needs to be done around the house will give you a pretty good idea of things that are not getting done.
Appearance of Parents – Does it seem like they’ve lost weight or are frailer?
Hearing – If they’re giving you answers to questions that don’t make sense, they may need to be checked by a professional for their hearing.
Medications – Are they taking their medications consistently? Check to see if medications are organized properly and try to determine if they are taking them in a timely manner.
Driving – How is their driving? Have them drive if you go for a ride and take notice how they are on the road.
Bills – Are they paying their bills? Has the mail even been opened?
Prevention of Falls
Balance – How is their balance? If there appears to be a balance problem, medications or incorrect prescription eyeglasses could be playing a role, so visit the appropriate doctor.
Handrails – Are there handrails on the stairway? Is the stairway well lit? Having handrails professionally installed on both sides helps avoid falls. Handrails should also be installed in showers, toilet areas or anywhere where balance has to be shifted.
Rugs – Could rugs be a tripping hazard? A small increase in floor height of a rug could cause problems. Non-skid rugs should be used on bathroom floors.
Bathroom – Is there a step-in bathtub or walk in shower? What about a shower chair? A toilet safety frame? Bathrooms are a common place where seniors fall, and it can be very dangerous due to hard surfaces and sharp corners.
Clutter – Are there newspapers, magazines, shoes and other materials lying around or on the stairs? Keep these things away from common walk areas.
Storage – Is everything within easy reach? Eliminate the use of ladders and make sure storage items are in convenient locations.
Early Signs of Dementia
Though a medical professional dealing with the elderly is the most well equipped to diagnose dementia, it is important that family be aware of any early signs. Taking a proactive approach is vital to early diagnosis and treatment. Presently, there is no cure for the progressive dementias, such as Alzheimer’s, but treatment such as medication, nutrition and interpersonal communication could help slow the disease’s progression.
Memory loss does not necessarily mean that someone has dementia. A professional in this field gave me an analogy that sticks in my mind. She said that memory loss is when someone forgets his or her car keys, but someone suffering from a form of dementia may not remember that he or she owns a car in the first place.
Following are some signs of which to be conscious in the early stages and consult with a professional if they persist:
- Changes in short-term memory
- Adding and subtracting
- Using a word incorrectly when talking
- Jumbling words
- Quiet or withdrawn
- Lack of interest or initiative
- Inability to carry out plans
- Becoming more angry, frustrated and restless
- Struggling with tasks that used to be routine
If you are visiting with your family during the holidays, have a wonderful time being together. However, keep in mind that it’s important to be aware of the surroundings to create a less risky setting at home and to get the assistance necessary to keep your loved ones safe. Many times the relative who visits the most infrequently is the one who notices the changes.
Frank M. Samson, CSA is a Certified Senior Advisor and Founder of Senior Care Authority based in Sonoma (Seniorcareauthority.com.) and the host of “The Aging Boomers” on KSVY 91.3 every Monday at 2 p.m. The company provides support to families throughout California in helping them locate the best In-Home Care and Independent and Assisted Living for their loved ones. Reach him at .939.8744 or Frank@seniorcareauthority.com.