What’s the Plan?

The plan, or the “nuts and bolts” of intervention, depends on the challenges that our elder loved ones are facing. As we all know, many elders are experts at hiding their areas of need and vulnerability. Many times, putting their best foot forward, causing the onlooker to think that “everything is fine” when that may not be the case at all. In a previous post, we discussed the importance of bringing an honest inventory of concerns to the table. If you suspect that your elder is struggling more than they are letting on, unannounced home visits may help shed light on how things look when they can’t prepare for a visitor.

If you have trouble identifying your elder’s areas of need, the following are issues that other families are often facing:

  • Safety and Risk

  • Medication Support

  • Groceries and Meals

  • Personal Care/Hygiene/Dressing

  • Transportation

  • Finances and Bill Paying

  • Home Management

  • Loneliness and Isolation

  • All of the above?

Let’s begin by getting it on paper.

Make a list of all your concerns. It might be a long list, and that’s okay – you need to start somewhere. Aging and its complications don’t generally occur overnight, and we aren’t going to “fix” everything immediately. Once your list is created, we need to “triage” our response. This is the process of rating, with the most urgent items moving to the top of the list for immediate intervention.

Concern: Safety

Safety is always a good place to start. When good judgement and self-preservation skills are not intact, the risk for injury and exploitation are increased. Emergency Response Personal Alert Systems are readily available and affordable. There are many brands on the market (for example, Lifeline) which can be found easily on a Google search. Many pendant or wristband personal alert systems come equipped with built-in “falls detection,” and some have GPS. In the event of a fall or with a simple press of a button, a notification goes to your choice of “first responder,” which might be a family member, neighbor, or could initiate a call to 911.

Automatic timers for indoor and outdoor lighting are helpful for the elder and can be a deterrent to unwanted visitors. The new Smart Doorbell Systems (for example, Ring), provide entry surveillance capability to your smartphone device. Various levels of home surveillance systems are available at a range of coverage and cost.

Daily check-in telephone calls, at predictable times of the day, are helpful as wellness checks, and can serve as reminders for medications, locking doors, eating meals, and other daily tasks. Alternate the calls between family members, if possible, to share the responsibility.

If this process seems overwhelming, know that help is available. SeniorCare, Inc., (866) 927-1050, has offices in Gloucester and Beverly with a plethora of available services and advice. Aberdeen Home Care, Inc. can also offer guidance and support, by crafting an individualized plan and approach to increasing your loved one’s safety by reducing risk and injury.

Written by Joanne MacInnis, RN and Certified Dementia Practitioner.

Originally published in the Manchester Cricket Newspaper, May 2018. 

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