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Losing Independence

It can happen suddenly; you receive a phone call in the middle of the night from your elderly mother or father who has fallen and hurt themselves. Or most often, it happens gradually; you begin to notice piled-up bills, neglected housekeeping, or dents in the car. However it happens, when a loved one needs help it can change your life. Are you assessing your loved one’s personal independence? As our loved one’s age, they begin to struggle with what used to be routine activities. Some seniors may not realize they need help or may be reluctant to ask for help because that would mean admitting declining abilities, losing independence, and possibly becoming a burden to family.

The first thing to do is figure out what kind of problems your elderly loved one faces. Are there specific disease processes that should be addressed? Maybe problems can be addressed with new glasses, or the assistance of meals on wheels. If your loved one hasn't seen a doctor recently, this would be a good place to start. There are also a few things you can start looking at a little more closely to become aware if mom or dad needs a little more assistance at home, or possibly it is time to start looking into assisted living or long term nursing home care. Use this checklist to see where needs need to be met.

  1. Have they had a decline in driving skills? Notice dents in car, not keeping up with oil changes.

  2. Have they decreased or stopped participating in activities that were previously important such as playing cards, participating in a book club, dining with friends, or attending religious or other social meetings?

  3. Can they take care of all shopping needs independently, make small purchases, or do they need to be assisted?

  4. Have they made unusual or more frequent purchases such as buying more than one magazine subscription of the same magazine, entering an unusual amount of contests, buying large amounts of money orders, or increased usage of purchasing from television advertisements?

  5. Can they operate telephone on their own including looking up and dialing numbers, etc.?

  6. Have they exhibited forgetfulness resulting in unopened mail, piling newspapers, not filling their prescriptions, or missed appointments?

  7. Can they maintain the house alone or with occasional assistance?

  8. Have they mishandled finances such as not paying bills, losing money, paying bills twice or more, or hiding money?

  9. Can they do personal laundry completely or with assistance and not giving reasons for wearing dirty clothing?

  10. Have they neglected personal hygiene resulting in wearing dirty clothes, body odor, bad breath, neglected nails and teeth, sores on the skin?

  11. Have they had physical problems such as accidents, burns, or injury marks resulting from general weakness, forgetfulness, or possible misuse of alcohol or prescribed medications?

  12. Have they exhibited inappropriate behavior by being unusually loud or quiet, paranoid, agitated, making phone calls at all hours?

  13. Have they changed relationship patterns such that friends and neighbors have expressed concerns?

  14. Can they plan, prepare, and serve adequate meals independently?

  15. Have they altered eating habits within the last year resulting in weight loss or gain, having no appetite, skipped meals, or hiding food?

  16. Are they exhibiting symptoms of depression?

  17. Are they forgetting to take medications or not refilling important prescriptions?

  18. Can they dress, undress, and select appropriate clothing from their wardrobe?

  19. Are they able to toilet themselves completely with no incontinence or need to be reminded or help in cleaning self?

  20. Can they bathe themselves (tub, shower, sponge bath) without help?

If the answer is no to any of these questions, then there is a need and it is time for that need to be addressed. Solutions for needs can be simple or they may be a little more difficult. A few solutions may include:

  • Make sure mom or dad go to their physician regularly to make sure there are no undiagnosed or untreated health issues

  • Increase visits or contact to make sure needs do not go unaddressed and constantly assess for further decline

  • Set up home-delivered meals through the local senior center or meals on wheels

  • Increase social contact with friends such as having them join their local senior center or church groups

  • Assist with household chores and bills or hire homemaking or household services to assist

  • Apply for home health or hospice services to assist with medical services

  • Look into alternative housing options such as assisted living or nursing home




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