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Indicators for Assisted Care

With the availability of community based services, seniors and their families will often strive to stay in their own home as long as possible. Staying in a familiar environment, finances, and retaining independence are some reasons that seniors and their families choose to remain in their home. But what about when staying at home is no longer safe? How do you know when mom or dad need more monitoring? There are indicators that additional assisted care may be required to keep your loved one safe.

Is there a lack of adequate food in cupboards or refrigerator? Have there been any falls? Are medications being taken as scheduled? Is there a lack of social interaction outside the home? Are there incidents of bed or clothing being soiled? Have mom or dad wandered and gotten lost outside the home? Is the family having difficulty meeting the needs of the aging parent? It may be time to consider assisted care options

Caregiving From a Distance

Caring for a loved one when you live in a different town may be challenging. How do you know Mom is taking her medications? How do you know if Dad is not overexerting himself?

There are several steps you can take to ease the stress that comes with long-distance caregiving. Schedule check-in times. Regular phone calls can be a good way to check in. Schedule a specific time of day and/or days of the week that you will call.

Some seniors have difficulty hearing on the phone. Arrange for special equipment if needed. Ask open-ended questions so that you elicit a response other than yes or no. When you listen to your loved one, make note of how they speak. Listen for changes in how they are connecting with you. Is their tone different? Are they less engaged than normal?

Email and video chats are also good options for contact. It may be easier for Mom to let you know how she's feeling by typing rather than talking. A video chat may assist you in seeing how Dad is looking physically.

Enlisting Local Support

When you are caring for someone from a distance, it may be beneficial to enlist the help of friends or other resources in the local community. Consider asking one of your parent's friends, church members, relatives, or neighbors to check in on a regular basis. Communicate to this person some of your concerns or wishes. Ask that they let you know if something looks amiss.

Identify who can be contacted in an emergency. Knowing that a trusted individual is nearby in time of need is reassuring. Be sure to offer a thank you of some type. Be willing to reimburse someone for their time in actual payment or gift card. Even if the friend is unwilling to accept payment, a thank you note is always a great way to show appreciation.

No trusted people nearby? Consider community resources. Good places to start are your Area Council of Aging, local churches, and non-profits serving families and seniors. Even if the organization does not have its own companion program, it more than likely can direct you to a place that does.

Arranging for Care

You have identified that a parent needs assistance. This may be hands-on assistance or simple "check-in" companion care. Avoiding a conflict at the front door is a good start. What type of care does your parent want? What type of care will they accept? What type of care do you think your parent needs? Having a conversation with your parent ahead of time preserves their independence and is respectful.

This conversation may eliminate an uncomfortable first visit with the companion. What if your parent doesn't want help? A friendly neighbor or church member may simply visit and observe without making your parent feel intruded upon.

Once a relationship is established with the "visitor" or companion it will be easier to notice other areas of need. If there are more substantial needs identified, plan for the next step in care.