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Five Tips to Maintain an Aging Parent’s Independence at Home

Have you found yourself worried that something isn’t wrong with your aging parent, worried that you are overlooking a problem? Rather than wait for a crisis to strike, take time to plan for how you can maintain your loved one’s  safety and quality of life. Here are five strategies to keep status quo. 

When An Aging Parent is Fine…Strategies to Maintain Status Quo

by Miriam Zucker, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM – Member of the Aging Life Care Association®

 

As an Aging Life Care Specialist™, I’m often contacted by family members asking for reassurance that they are not overlooking a need of an aging loved one. Because these are not emergency or crisis calls, these meetings give me an opportunity to discuss current care and future planning.

During a thorough assessment, I evaluate a broad array of areas including medical history, cognitive function, financial status, familial and community supports, as well as status of critical health and legal documents. When these questions don’t raise any red flags, I find myself having to reassure the family that they fortunate. But, at the same time, like a good scout – be prepared and practice prevention.

So just what is it I am telling families? It’s something like car maintenance. No squeaking brakes, or dashboard lights on, but you still bring your car in for maintenance. Some older adults, if you excuse the analogy, are just like that. Blessed with good health – realistic and accepting of their needs – they can remain safely in their homes.

To maintain status quo, Aging Life Care Specialists suggest five strategies:

1. A medic alert pendant or bracelet. Look for a system that has a fall alert built into its sensor. Unlike the commercials, there is no need to dial the phone, the sensor picks up on the fall and calls the designated numbers immediately.

2. Maintain a current list of all medications (and know where to find the list).

3. A notation of any food, medication, or latex allergies .

4. Prominently display a Community DNR (this is different than a hospital DNR).

5. A daily check-in call. Such calls allow for an adult child (or designated caller) to pick up on the slightest of changes in a parent’s cognitive status. Infections in older adults travel at lightning speed with altered mental status as one of the hallmarks that something is wrong. Urinary tract infections are notorious for causing this altered status.

One particular service that facilitates much of the above is Vial of Life . The Vial of Life program helps individuals compile their complete medical information and have it ready in their home for emergency personnel to reference.

These small but essential steps go a long way in helping an aging adult maintain his/her independence while at the same time living safely in their beloved home. Don’t wait for an emergency to seek the help of an Aging Life Care Specialist. Connect with one now to start the assessment process and build a maintenance plan that maximizes quality of life for everyone. Search for an expert at aginglifecare.org.

About the author: Miriam Zucker, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM, is an Aging Life Care Specialist practicing in Westchester County, New York. A social worker by training, she also serves on the faculty of The Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Longevity where she helped found the Certificate Program in Geriatric Care Management.

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