A new year signals a new beginning, and for some people, the realization that mom or dad may not be living out their golden years in the safest and most enriching environment. Visits home through the holidays can expose situations that can't be overlooked or brushed off in ways they can be with just a phone call.
Spending a few hours or days in a parent's home may offer a glimpse into their day-to-day life. Upkeep of the home and personal appearance are frequently the first indicators that something may be amiss. Here are some common signs indicating that a loved one is becoming overwhelmed: their refrigerator has an abundance of spoiled or uneaten food; televisions, smoke detectors or other devices aren't working properly; mail is piling up or prescription medication seems to be stored in a disorganized manner.
Consider housekeeping or meal-prep services to get ahead of a situation that can become unsafe. Home care services can also help keep seniors living in their own homes longer. A little help can frequently go a long way, especially when proper nutrition and medication management are prioritized.
Although exercise routines and regular weekly outings may be on hold while family members are visiting, having conversations about these activities is important. Knowing that mom or dad has a few events each week to look forward to and the opportunity to engage with others is reassuring. Lack of socialization can exacerbate loneliness and feelings of isolation even for those who have never been known for a busy social calendar.
For some, transportation is a factor in their ability to be active. Once a senior is no longer driving, consider setting up an Uber account or engaging in services through the Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities, or organizations such as Partners In Care, to provide the necessary rides. For those who are still driving but aren't sure where to go or what to do, recommend visiting any of the Anne Arundel County senior centers. There are eight centers located throughout the county that provide an abundance of activities, entertainment and opportunities to socialize.
For those who are really not interested in leaving their home on a frequent basis, think about encouraging them to adopt a daily routine if they do not have one. Waking and going to bed at generally the same time every day, as well as eating meals and/or napping around the same regular time frame, is ideal. Other options to suggest would be walking the neighborhood, doing brain games such as crossword puzzles or word searches, and making at least one phone call a day to friends or relatives. Another idea would be to consider what other services or resources can either come to the senior's home or do outreach in some way. The county offers a telephone reassurance program, which tasks volunteers to make daily calls at a designated time to people who are enrolled. If the call goes unanswered, there is a protocol that is followed to ultimately alert a designated friend, neighbor or relative.
For those with Medicare B, benefits allow physical or occupational therapists to make visits to the home. The more interactions a senior has, the more opportunity for them to remain engaged and less of a chance for an unsafe situation to arise.
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