In today’s society oftentimes elders and their families are separated by distance (and sometimes much more). Caregiving at a distance can be difficult, stressful and time-consuming. And often the only time caregivers see the loved one is on a family visit, more than not tied around a holiday. It is important to know what to look for when visiting elders.
Helping your local caregivers by providing tips for visiting long-distance elders is not only a good thing to do but reflects on your company as well. By arming caregivers with knowledge of how to spot abuse and neglect, you empower them to take action. One action could be to move the loved one closer to the caregiver. Perhaps that loved one will need your services. You see the tie.
Be On the Lookout
- First, be observant. Use your five senses: eyes, ears, taste, touch, smell. What are they telling you?
- Look at the house/apartment. Is it being kept up? Is mom or dad having trouble with household chores? Is the environment unsafe, unsanitary?
- Track the chores you do while there as they could point to services your loved one needs after you leave.
- Is there any thing obviously missing or large-scale new purchases? This could indicate some type of exploitation/abuse by others.
- Notice any obvious physical changes in a loved one - weight gain, weight loss, decline in general hygiene, bruises or injuries.
- How is their strength and balance? Does it prevent them from doing things, leaving the house, getting out of a chair for example. Will they accept help, say when you go to a mall and offer to get a wheelchair? Contributing factors such as arthritis and vision problems may be playing a part. And they could be trying to conceal it.
- Check for dehydration or malnourishment? Are your parents eating nutritious meals regularly? Are they able to prepare meals? They could be not eating properly.
- Are they wearing inappropriate clothes? Is their clothing inadequate?
- Check that they have all of their medical aids - eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures
- Look for signs of declining memory. Are loved ones placing items in wrong places, missing appointments?
- Are they forgetful?
- When recalling past holiday gatherings, how is their reaction and recall?
- Unopened mail could indicate memory problems, vision problems, or hint at financial problems.
- Sweepstakes circulars could indicate they or someone is responding to offers.
- Are there overdue bills? Are bill collectors calling or showing up at the house?
- Check for any changes in the loved ones bank account.
- Check for any additional names on a bank signature card.
- Check their bank statements. Is there unauthorized withdrawal of funds?
- Check expiration dates on medications.
- Are loved ones forgetting to take medications?
- Can they afford their medications?
- Has the number of prescriptions increased significantly?
First, there is a delicate art on how to communicate with an elder loved one. You want to enjoy the time you have with them and ease into the conversation. One of the toughest conversations for example that caregivers often have is when to take the car keys away. And the first time that might crop up is when you visit and go for a ride or observe your loved one driving. So you can see how you need to observe first, plan a conversation in your head and then initiate a conversation.
- It starts with that frank conversation. Determine with your loved ones, and perhaps other family members, what assistance they need. Don't change how you normally communicate with them. Don’t come across as threatening their independence.
- Gather information on community services that can meet their needs. Take notes of services, fees, waiting lists.
- Use the government’s ElderCare Locator to find services.
- Schedule a visit with your elder’s physician during the time you are there.
- Identify a social support system for your loved one. This includes people they can call on such as friends, neighbors, clergy, and others in regular contact. Meet these people while you are there.
Even if loved ones are fine, advance planning can help you to avoid a crisis in the future. And you certainly cannot accomplish all of the above in one visit.
When you get back home work with your loved ones to collect the information that will help in a crisis. Take a medication inventory. Document the names of physicians. Make sure they have a living will and durable power of attorney. Know where to find their financial information – deeds, insurance policies.
By helping your clients, prospects and community deal with elder care issues you will be helping yourself. The positive word of mouth will impact positive cash flow later.