The holidays are over. For many of us this was a chance to interact with our older loved ones in a different way. We were in "holiday mode" not "caregiver mode." It was a chance to spend quality time with our loved ones - in their home.

This might have provided insights into how your loved one is coping with the onset of aging. Think about what you saw, smelled and heard. Have things changed? Did a normally well-kept home look neglected and un-kempt? Did your typically clean and laundered loved one looked disheveled and untidy? Were there loose medicines scattered about? Did your loved one become confused easily, get overwhelmed by the commotion or seem physically unsteady? These can be signs that your loved one's safety and well-being are being jeopardized.

We all want our loved ones to live happily, safely and independently for as long as possible. But if your loved one's daily needs are not being met, and safety issues are becoming common, it may be time to act. It can be hard to see the challenges our loved ones are now facing, and our older loved ones might not want to acknowledge that they are facing difficulties with day-to-day activities. But not addressing the changes you saw is setting your loved one up for failure and danger.

What can you do to help them stay safe?

  1. You may have noticed they need help in the home. Maybe just a few hours a week to help with errands and maintenance; maybe a more constant presence to assist with personal care and medications. It might be time to take the first steps, but realize you may come up against resistance to having someone new in their home. Patience and diplomacy are paramount when discussing this topic.
  2. How is the home? Do they need to increase the lighting? Are there grab bars in the bathroom? Throw rugs can cause falls and may need to be removed. Are locks easily operated, to both lock securely and unlock quickly? Can they still reach the towels and toilet paper holder now that their range is reduced? All of these things need to be considered to keep them safe and comfortable in their home.
  3. How is the telephone? Is the handset easy to operate, with large numbers and adequate volume? Are emergency numbers pre-programmed into the phone. Don't forget to consider a medical alert response system, such as LifeLine.
  4. Smoke detectors need service. Are the batteries fresh?
  5. Are your loved ones able to properly care, feed, exercise and clean up after their pets? .
  6. How's the pantry? Do they have everything on hand? If a winter storm hit, would they be prepared to stay in for a few days?
  7. How's the kitchen? Are they eating nutritiously and are they able to clean up after themselves? Is the food prepared and stored in a sanitary manner? How long have the leftovers been around?
  8. Do they have  a system and routine for remembering to take their medicines? Do they use a pill organizer and can they keep to a schedule? Who refills their pill organizer?
The holidays were a great chance to observe how your loved one is coping. Think back over your time together and utilize what you observed to help those you care for. As always, I am here to help with any concerns you have for your loved one. Contact me at terri.weber@uky.edu or (859) 323-4600 ext. 80457.