A touching demonstration of love and aging from Field Day, to kick off this year's wedding season.
Placing a loved one in nursing home is a difficult decision for every family. You want what’s best for them, but how can you ensure that your loved one is receiving the best possible care? In the United States alone, an estimated 2.1 million seniors in nursing homes are subjected to abuse each year. The sad reality is that many more of these cases go undetected. Quality of life is extremely important at the end of life, as research suggests that seniors who are neglected tend to die earlier than those who are better cared for. When it comes to ensuring your loved one is being well cared for, vigilance is key. Here are 5 warning signs to look out for:
1. Bad odor / uncleanliness
One of the first and most obvious signs of neglect is a lack of cleanliness. Your loved one deserves to enjoy living conditions that are sanitary and orderly. If you notice a persistently unpleasant odor when you visit, or dirty floors, linens, or bathroom area, this may signify a problem.
2. Unexplained bruises or cuts.
Some very minor injuries may not be cause for alarm, as the elderly have thinner skin and are increasingly fragile with age. Elderly patients who are bed-ridden are especially susceptible to bed sores. However, frequent or abnormal injuries, however minor, could indicate that the patient is being handled too roughly or is suffering from neglect.
3. Weight loss or dehydration.
Many seniors have special dietary requirements, or need help eating their meals. Sometimes a nursing home resident may not get enough to eat simply because their food was not cut into bite-size pieces. Patients who suffer from Parkinson’s often need assistance with drinking and handling food. If your loved one has been losing weight, looking frail or suffering from symptoms of dehydration, this could indicate that they are not being properly cared for.
Physical abuse is not the only type of abuse that threatens the elderly. Criticism, humiliation and ignoring are just a few examples of emotional abuse that sometimes occur in nursing facilities. Also, it’s important that your loved one has the opportunity to engage socially. Isolation is another form of nursing home neglect.
Signs of depression include loss of appetite, changes in sleep patterns, withdrawn behavior and loss of interest in activities that are normally enjoyable. Pay attention to your loved one, and be sure to maintain an open dialogue about the quality of their experience in the nursing home.
5. Medications not being administered or being administered improperly.
Is your loved one’s health fluctuating and unpredictable? Are they suffering from abnormal side effects? If you suspect that your loved one is not receiving their medication in the proper doses or at the proper times, don’t be afraid to ask to see the nursing home’s records. Every dose that was administered should be recorded.
While we believe that most nursing facilities and nursing staff offer compassionate and quality care, the best thing you can do for your loved one in a nursing home is to visit them often and remain vigilant. If you notice anything at all that raises an alarm, do not hesitate to investigate the situation further. If you believe your loved one could be the victim of abuse, you can call the Virginia Elder Abuse Hotline at: 1-888-832-3858, or you can report it to your local authorities, as elder abuse is a criminal offense. For more information, visit Virginia Adult Protective Services. If your loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, contact us for a free consultation to discuss your options about bringing an elder abuse lawsuit.
The risks of falls increases with age. Every year, 2 million older adults are treated for fall-related injuries. Falls can be quite serious, especially among seniors whose bones and bodies are more susceptible to injury. Here are 5 fall prevention tips to help you stay safe:
1. Exercise regularly
The general consensus in the scientific community is that regular exercise is pretty much the best thing you can do for your health. Exercise helps you maintain balance, coordination, strength and stability. Maintaining regular, daily movement keeps your body in the best shape to prevent falls.
2. Eliminate tripping hazards
Most homes are filled with tripping hazards, like loose rugs, upturned corners or electrical cords. Consider making a conscious walk-through of your home and fixing those floor hazards that can trip your feet. Bathroom safety is also important. Make sure you have a non-slip surface in the floor of your shower or tub, and a non-slip bath mat for a safe, dry floor when stepping out.
3. Improve lighting
Improving lighting is a simple, easy fall-prevention strategy. Consider adding night lights to dark hallways. This is especially useful when the night lights are plugged into outlets close to the floor, so you can safely see where you step.
4. Choose the right footwear
The treads of old shoes can get worn down on the bottom, making them slippery. Wearing shoes with good treads gives your feet the traction they need to keep you upright. Also, consider choosing slippers with non-slip bottoms and anti-slip-grip socks.
5. Be mindful of mixing medications
Consider speaking with your doctor about the different medications and supplements you're taking. Some medications can cause side effects like dizziness or fatigue that increase your risk of falling.
While you’re visiting for the holidays, you may get some unexpected insight into the living quality of your aging loved one. If you find yourself faced with the need to initiate a conversation about different living options, here are 3 tips that could help make the talk a productive one:
When it comes to senior living options, it’s probably important to your loved one that they feel understood. Moving to a new living arrangement is a difficult and stressful life event at any age. By practicing active listening, you can encourage your loved one to express their concerns, which may lead them to become more open to hearing about your concerns.
-Give clear examples
Examples are very helpful when talking with an aging loved one about changing their living situation. Getting your perspective across will benefit from compelling and understandable evidence. What particular instances have raised your concerns about your loved one living alone? For example, has your loved one experienced a cooking accident in the kitchen? Have they experienced a hazardous fall? Have they gotten lost or disoriented? Consider keeping a mental record of these examples to gently refer to during your discussion, in order to show your loved one why you are concerned about their well-being.
-Avoid “you” statements and demands
A little attention to phrasing can go a long way. Statements such as “you are not well enough to be living alone,” or “you need help” can come across as feeling accusatory to your aging loved one. Instead, consider using “I” statements, such as “I worry about your well-being” or “I want to make sure you’re safe.”
Keep in mind that this is not likely to be a one-and-done discussion. You’ll probably need to have this conversation a few times before reaching an agreement. But by making genuine efforts to understand, giving good examples and watching the phrasing you use, you can turn this difficult discussion into a success.
With the holiday season in full swing, I sat down to put some thought into which gifts will boost the spirits and benefit our elderly loved ones most. Here are my top five gift ideas to make the season bright:
1. Audio Books / Podcast Subscription
Aging can take away our eyesight, but it can't take our enjoyment of a good story! Audio books and podcasts (many of which are free, such as Radiolab or This American Life) are a fantastic way for an elderly person with visual impairments to enjoy their favorite yarns. You can set them up with an audio library on their computer, smart phone or tablet. Check out Audible for some great selections.
2. Photo Blanket- the softer the better!
The modern age offers an incredible variety of photo gifts out there on the market. But one of my favorites, for both form and function, is the photo blanket. They're easy to order online (you can get one from WalMart) and can be a wonderful way to keep pictures of the grand-kids close. Plus, our elderly relatives tend to feel the cold more easily, so warm blankets are always appreciated.
3. Digital Picture Frame
Many of our elderly loved ones struggle with limited mobility. This might mean they spend a lot of time in one room of the house. Instead of offering a dozen of the traditional photo frames that gather dust, consider giving them a digital frame that can include tons of photos all in one place. Your loved one can enjoy a slideshow of smiling faces of family and friends from the comfort of their favorite chair.
4. Comfy Footwear
Your elderly loved one is more susceptible to chilly feet. Slippers and socks with non-slip treads not only keep them cozy, but they also help prevent hazardous falls. You may also want to consider indoor/outdoor "garden shoes" like crocks that have non-slip bottoms and warm fuzzy fabric to hug their feet.
5. Cleaning Services
If you've never hired a cleaning service before, boy you'll be amazed at the difference they can make. They not only keep your house clean, they also help keep your mind free from clutter and your spirits high. It can be extremely difficult for your elderly loved one to keep a clean home, especially when cleaning requires strenuous physical activity like scrubbing, bending and kneeling. Consider hiring a monthly or bi-monthly cleaning service to do the job. Most services charge by the square foot and allow you to schedule regular days. Think of how good your elderly loved one would feel with a consistently clean, comfortable home!
Of course, it needs to be said that the best gift is your company! Our nation's seniors suffer from loneliness. Paying them a visit as often as you can is the greatest (and most appreciated) gift we can offer.
Safety is always the most important consideration. Aging in place should only be considered when a senior can live at home safely. First, make sure to follow the basic safety requirements for a senior’s home. Are the fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in working order? Does your loved one know what steps to take if one of these alarms goes off? Night lights in dark areas like hallways and bathrooms are helpful additions for seniors who have weaker vision. Consider eliminating tripping hazards like rugs and electrical cords. Make sure the shower or bath is coupled with a bath mat, and consider adding a grab bar to the shower or a bathing chair to the tub.
Many seniors are dependent on others for their daily needs. For example, many can no longer drive and depend on their friends, family members or other transportation services to get them to doctor’s appointments, social gatherings or the grocery store. Many need help with daily care such as dressing or bathing. Some need assistance with watering plants, taking out the garbage or household cleaning. In order for a dependent senior to stay at home in safety and good health, they need a community of people to support them. But just as important as these practical chores is companionship. Companionship is essential to health. Loneliness and isolation can cause depression and severe health decline in seniors. Consider encouraging your loved one to join area social clubs or activities such as bingo.
Family of course is a great resource, but sometimes it’s not possible for family members to be around all the time. Consider an organization such as Home Instead who can provide in-home caregiving. Also, look into organizations like Paws for Seniors, who help seniors take care of their pets by taking over some necessary pet-owner activities like dog walking or cleaning litter boxes. A pet can be an essential companion to a senior, providing them with both company and purpose in their daily activities. Check out our previous post on animal therapy for the elderly. Another great organization is Meals on Wheels, who deliver hot meals to seniors who are often home-bound and unable to cook for themselves.
We’ve already highlighted the importance of companionship, but it can’t be stressed enough. For a senior to live comfortably at home, they must have regular contact with other people. For the most practical reasons, seniors need someone to check in on them often, to make sure the food in their refrigerator is not expired, to make sure their house is clean and to make sure they’re not experiencing any new health problems. Consider asking a neighbor to check in every now and then. A senior living alone should have easy phone access from anywhere in the house. You may consider asking them to wear a medical alert device, such as a necklace, in case of emergencies.
We’ve all heard the phrase: Youth is wasted on the young. But what if, at any stage of our life, we had access to the wisdom that comes with experience? This is precisely the idea that led Dr. Karl Pillemer of Cornell University to compile a catalog of wisdom from our elders. He calls it “The Legacy Project; Lessons for Living from the Wisest Americans.”
Dr. Pillemer interviewed a thousand older Americans about the lessons they’ve learned through living a lifetime- and the responses they had to offer surprised him. Here are a few pieces of hard-won advice Dr. Pillemer has safeguarded for future generations:
On Love :
1. According to our elders (some of whom have been married for upward of 60 years!), in matters of love the small stuff is the big stuff. Perhaps it’s true that we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff- when it comes to real small stuff at work or in the mishaps of social gatherings- but when the small stuff is the everyday minutia that makes up a lifetime of our relationships, it carries big importance. Being positive with your partner and staying engaged rather than being dismissive, these are the things that breathe life into a long-term commitment.
2. Another surprising finding? While it’s true that opposites attract, older couples advise us to pair up with someone similar to ourselves. According to Dr. Pillemer, “based on 40, 50, or 60 years of marriage the elders say say: Marry someone a lot like you. Opposites attract, but they don’t make for long marriages. Find someone of similar background, interests, and most of all values.”
On regret at the end of life :
3. What insight do our seniors offer about regret? Dr. Pillemer says “what they regret most in life is worrying too much.” According to those with years of experience to back them up, what we tend to worry about tends never to happen. The things that really challenge us are things we didn’t see coming to begin with.
4. Through his research Dr. Pillemer also discovered: “You are going to absolutely regret what you didn’t do rather than what you did.” So if someone offers you an opportunity and you don’t have a good reason to decline, then do it! The Legacy Project’s research shows that our elders encourage taking risks.
5. Another big regret? Dishonesty. I guess the old adage hits the mark: the truth will set you free.
Eager for more good advice? Check out Dr. Pillemer’s books: 30 Lessons for Living; Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans and 30 Lessons for Loving; Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage.
We create estate plans to make sure our family is taken care of. It’s important to remember that our family includes our pets. Our furry, feathery and scaly friends depend on us, and our estate plan should provide for their future if we’re no longer available to care for them.
1. Your pet could live for a long time, even without you.
The average life span of a dog is 13 years, the average life span of a cat is 15 years and certain parrots and turtles can live up to 100 years old! If you become ill and can no longer take care of them, or if you pass away, your pet could still need care for many years to come.
2. Promises from friends or family may not stand the test of time.
We can’t predict what will happen in our lives or in our relationships. Maybe your brother made a promise to take care of Fido a few years back, but he’s since taken a new job and moved across the country. Maybe he’s moved into a condo that has a strict no-pet policy. It’s always better to make formal arrangements.
3. It’s simple to include your pets in your estate plan.
With the help of your lawyer, it’s fairly simple to include pets in your Last Will and Testament or to set up a trust for your pets. You’ll simply need to decide who to appoint as your Personal Representative to take care of your pets in the event of your death. Be sure to choose two or three people in case your first choice is unavailable.
Keep in mind that whoever you choose to take care of your pets does not need to take them in permanently. They can agree instead to act as a temporary caregiver until they find your pet a good permanent home.
On average, 15 older adults are killed and 586 are injured every day in car crashes in America. Fatal crash rates per mile traveled increase dramatically after age 70, with the highest among drivers age 85 and older.
Asking an aging parent to give up driving is one of the toughest decisions you will make as a caregiver. An aging parent can view your request as an assault on their independence. But if your loved one suffers from a physical or mental condition that affects their ability to drive safely such as vision impairment or worsening dementia, it’s in their best interest (and in the best interest of those sharing the road) to protect them from getting behind the wheel. So what can you do?
First, have a conversation. Consider asking your loved one if they feel safe when they’re driving. Offer them alternative means of transportation, whether that’s public transportation such as a bus, a community ride-share or an independent mobility device such as a scooter. Ask them about their concerns, and listen to what they have to say. Where do they most want to go? What activities would they feel were threatened if they couldn’t drive, and how could you help them find an alternative plan to access those activities?
If your loved one still refuses to give up driving after alternative solutions are offered, consider reaching out to their physician or their optometrist. No one wants to hear that they need to give up driving, but hearing it from a trusted and respected source such as a doctor might help them take it more seriously.
If all else fails, you can take your concerns to the Department of Motor Vehicles. You can report an impaired driver to undergo a driver fitness and medical review. You will need this form, information such as the driver’s full name and date of birth, along with specific information about your concerns. The process is confidential, and the DMV cannot release information on the source or the reason for the report. Your loved one will then undergo a vision test, a written test and an examination drive with an inspector to determine whether their license should be revoked.
The first and best step to keep your loved one from driving is to convince them to give up the car keys voluntarily. If this isn’t possible, as is oftentimes the case, seek help from a third party such as a doctor, lawyer or religious advisor who is respected by your loved one. Although contacting the DMV about reviewing your loved one’s ability to drive may feel like a harsh action to take, just remember that you are taking the necessary action to protect them from the dangers of unsafe driving.
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