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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday visits: good time to check up on your loved one

We live in a very mobile society where families don’t always live in the same town or even the same state for that matter. Holiday gatherings are a perfect time to ‘check up’ on seniors living on their own.

It is not uncommon for the adult children of seniors to have some concerns about how their parents are doing. This holiday season while you are enjoying your visits, make good use of your time by reviewing your senior loved one’s living status.

One of the best ways to determine a senior’s current capabilities is to use your five senses. The following checklist can help you determine if your family members are in need of additional care of assistance.

Sight – Looking at the senior’s appearance can be a sign that they are being limited either physically or mentally from completing otherwise normal daily tasks. Watch for things like clothes with stains, poor personal hygiene and a disorganized or dirty house.

Sound – Listening to what and how seniors speak can tell you a lot about their current mental status. Do they call you by name? Are they speaking normally?

Smell – Use your nose as an indicator to determine if the relative is bathing properly, cleaning their house or have spoiled food in their kitchen.

Taste – Tasting their food and sorting through their medications can help you determine if they are eating healthy or taking expired medications. Look at expiration dates and look for fresh and stocked pantry items.

Touch – A simple hug can tell you if your family member is fragile or losing weight. Is their skin soft and the color normal? Do they have any bruising or tearing of the skin?

“If the family senses a problem, they should waste no time in taking the appropriate next steps,” said Clark Bongaardt, Springfield, PA. “Sometimes, setting a family meeting while the majority of the family is in town may be the easiest way to determine how caregiving is handled.”

Things to be discussed at the meeting could include the latest report from the physician, what are the seniors daily care needs, what are the financial concerns of caregiving and who will make future decisions?

Although family meetings can be powerful and effective ways to connect and work with family members, they cannot magically solve all the problems of caring for an aging family member. In many cases, an outside care provider or service is the best option.

“For many of our clients, we provide assistance with many of the activities of daily life including meal preparation, incidental transportation and in many cases personal care services. Primarily, we provide companionship and a peace of mind to the family members who can’t be there on a regular basis,” continued Clark Bongaardt.

Remember, the holiday season is a time for family, togetherness and establishing lifelong memories. By taking the time to address these issues before they reach the crisis stage, your family will have the much-needed sense of security allowing your loved ones to continue living in the comfort of their own homes.

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