On December 14, 2010, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) released a list of tips and questions to make it easier to observe how aging loved ones are doing. Caregiving in the U.S., a 2009 comprehensive report released by the National Alliance on Caregiving and AARP, finds that 43.5 million people (one in five Americans) are caregivers for someone over the age of 50.
In the spirit of the holiday season, when many families cross miles to spend quality time with loved ones they may only see a few times each year, AARP has offered the following tips to help adult children and other relatives monitor a loved one’s level of independence and safety. If an analysis of any of the following factors raises concern about a loved one’s safety, now is the time to discuss senior housing options, such as assisted living or independent living.
Take a look around to gauge the safety and appropriateness of the home. Is the home multi-level? Would installing a chair lift provide better mobility, or would a move to a one story home be the safest option? Are there safety hazards that could lead to injury, such as, rugs, dark stairs, clutter, or fire hazards? Does the home have a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor? There are some home improvements that can make an elderly loved one’s home safer, such as installing a walk-in shower or bathtub, hand rails, chair lifts, easier to use switches and handles, pull out cabinet shelves, and comfort height toilets.
It’s important to ensure that your loved one is still capable of safe driving or to arrange for alternate transportation options. There are a few signs that indicate a person should not be driving or should only be driving limited amounts of time. Ride with them to observe their driving skills. Does the car or garage have dents? Are they missing signs/signals or driving too slow? Do they have any traffic citations? Are they having close calls while driving?
There are a few health concerns that should be checked. Make sure that you are aware of your loved ones’ health problems and that you have a list of their current medications. Have their doctor or pharmacist review their medication list to ensure that the drugs they are taking are safe to take while driving or won’t cause an interaction. Are they having trouble taking their pills? Do they remember to take their medications at the correct times? Would obtaining a pill organizer benefit them? Medicare open enrollment season continues through December 31st; make sure they don’t need to update their coverage or have any questions due to changes to the new health care laws. Also, make sure they don’t need help filling out forms, such as insurance forms.
Be prepared to help with the loved ones’ finances. Do you know where important financial information is kept? Is it all in one location? Check the mailbox to make sure bills aren’t piling up or late notices aren’t being received. Do they have bills that they are unable to pay?
Please visit www.aarp.org/caregiving for more information on caring for your aging loved one.
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