Long Distance Caregiving – Determining if Help is Needed

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 8,147
    Mary Alexander with Home Instead Senior Care discusses how to best manage long-distance care-giving. This video focuses on how to determine if help is needed.

    Mary Alexander: Hi! I'm Mary Alexander with Home Instead Senior Care, and I'm discussing how to best manage long-distance care-giving. And now I want to provide some tips on how to determine if help is needed.

    So how do you know if your senior loved one needs some assistance. Usually one of four scenarios happens. First and easiest to recognize is, a sudden onset of a severe illness. Second, your loved one may let you know that they are having difficultly getting certain things done and may actually ask you for help.

    Third, you may get a call from a concerned neighbor, other family member or your loved ones' medical care professionals letting you know that there are some issues that need to be addressed.

    However, the most likely scenario is that on a visit to see your loved one, you start to notice some tell-tale signs that things just aren't right. Both the National Institute on Aging and the MetLife Mature Market Institute in cooperation with the National Alliance for Caregiving recommend you conduct an evaluation of your loved ones' needs for assistance during your next visit.

    It is important that you set aside some time to assess the full situation. This task is also made easier if you group items into categories and take lots of notes. The categories you should consider are, medical conditions, home safety, mood and attitude, signs of abuse or self-neglect, and driving skills.

    When it comes to medical conditions, take a general overview of their health. Do your parents appear healthy or frail? Are they taking several medications? If so, are they able to manage them by taking them on time, and getting regular refills? How is their memory? Do they seem to be increasingly forgetful, such as missing appointments or getting lost in familiar places? Are there burned pots because they left something cooking on the stove and forgot about it?

    Also, watch them as they move about. Are they steady when standing or sitting or are there broken towel bars, or ripped curtains from being used as handles to provide support? Are there any indications of incontinence such as an odor of urine in their home?

    Next, you should take a look around at home safety. Are the stairs manageable or as a ramp needed, are there tripping hazards at exterior entrances or inside the house?

    If your parent needs a walker or wheelchair in the near future, can the house be modified to accommodate the equipment? These home safety questions are just the start.

    After looking at medical conditions and home safety, the next category to examine is mood and attitude. Does either parent seem depressed or anxious? Are the shades drawn, and the house dark? How about interaction with family members, and friends? Are they still getting out and socializing with others?

    Sometimes depression and sense of loss will manifest itself in lack of attention to managing daily needs. For instance, is there food in the refrigerator and are there staple foods in the cupboards? Are bills being paid or as mail piling up? Is the house clean and are the clothes being laundered?

    When seniors aren't feeling well, there are also maybe signs of abuse or self-neglect. Look for changes in personal tidiness or cleanliness. Are they eating right or are there signs of weight loss? Are there smells from spoiling foods or garbage?

    Lastly, if your parents are still driving, try to assess their skills. Take a drive with them, and watch how they do. If they are saying, they no longer get out on the road, ask them, is it because driving has become scary or difficult for them? You should also check the car for damage and ask them if they have had any recent accidents.

    Looking around and asking these questions isn't easy, but it's necessary. Once you finished your assessment, the details you found can help you open the door to communicate with your loved ones and make improvements. In the end, it could help keep your parents safe and healthy. Up next, I'll talk about what can be done when you return to your home.