Does This Describe Your Situation?
“My Mom is 85 years old. She likes living in her own home which she has lived in for 60 years. I live miles away, work all day, have kids in school, and can’t visit as often as I know I need to. There is never a time during the day when I’m not feeling guilty, wondering if she is safe at home alone. Even though I promised to let her live at home, and that is my intention, I worry that she will not do well aging in place without help.”
There are five major, potential problems in the home that cause the aged to fail. These are nutrition, medicine, hygiene, un-addressed medical problems, and safety. Having a detailed plan and home care givers can often successfully assist the elderly in remaining at home. By evaluating and providing creative and practical solutions to these five problems, many elderly do very well.
“I know my Dad lives on sweets. He refuses any food that is nutritional.”
38% of older Americans do not get enough nutrition in their daily diet. Physical disabilities, isolation, poverty, mental disorders, or ignorance are causes, or they may not be able to digest food as well as before. They have problems preparing meals and getting to the grocery store. Poor nutrition leads to anemia, constipation, dehydration, and generalized weakness. Many elderly people eat alone and miss the social pleasure of dining with others. Home care services can help the elderly with meal planning, shopping, preparing meals and helping maintain a special diet.
“I have trouble getting Mom’s meds straight. How can I expect her to know what she takes or when she should take it?”
The elderly living at home alone often overuse or under use medication. They may take more than one medication to treat the same diagnosis. They may no longer be able to understand their medication prescription due to diminishing cognitive and sensory functions. To assess independence in medication, our client must be able to take the correct dosage at the correct time and to anticipate refills before they are needed. Reasons for non-compliance are varied. An RN Care Manager can monitor medications to see that dosage is coordinated and safe.
3. Hygiene and Home Maintenance
“Dad just isn’t taking care of himself, and the house is dirty. He doesn’t bathe, shave or change his clothes like he once did. He hates it when I ask to help him get a bath.”
Elders who live alone are less likely to keep up an ongoing schedule of dressing, bathing, and grooming. Those who lose their spouses may lose their motivation for cleanliness. A few hours of home care a week can remedy this problem. A home care caregiver can assist the elderly client in establishing a routine for daily bathing, dressing, and grooming. They improve the client’s outlook with a fresh start each day. Household tasks such as cleaning, taking out the garbage, and straightening up the house will help prevent the spread of germs and provide an organized environment in which the client can reside.
4. Unaddressed Medical Problems
“I’m worried because my Mom refuses to let me take her to see her doctors. It is a huge battle even when I suggest a need to go. Her combativeness is getting worse. She won’t eat and I know she drinks very little fluid during a typical day. I need help!”
Infrequent medical care visits are often due to physical or mental impairment that reduces the elder’s ability to recognize health issues and seek treatment in a timely way. Sometimes, unable to drive any longer, it is difficult to get to the doctor. Once there, they are likely to give incomplete or wrong information. They might fear seeking help because they do not want to be a burden or worry that their privacy or independence will be taken away. In preparation for their doctor’s visit, the RN Care Manager can make a priority list for discussion. Problems such as joint pain, incontinence, confusion, and weakness should not be passed off as simply symptoms of aging. A home care giver can accompany the elder to the doctor, keeping his visit to the doctor on track. With the caregiver’s help, critical instructions about treatment can be written down and followed at home.
“Mother is not safe. She will not call us. She has a hard time with the stairs, and getting out of the tub by herself. She might fall and not get to the phone for help. She is stubborn and won’t heed my warnings.”
Accidents are the fifth leading cause of death in older adults, with falls constituting two thirds of these accidents. As we age, we experience changes in vision, sensory processes, and hearing. Our reaction time slows, and we might lose our balance. An aged person’s gait is often stiffer, less coordinated, and muscle strength and tone decline with age. Gait problems are a common cause for falls and a common cause of muscle weakness found in stroke, Parkinson, fractures, and arthritis.
A geriatric care manager will recognize the problems of recurring falls or the existence of a high risk for falls. They look for safety problems in the house and conduct a search for hazards, which could cause future falls. Home safety assessments are done for the purpose of making recommendations to prevent future falls including grab bars, shower bench, night lights, removal of throw rugs and thresholds, and other changes to reduce the risk of falling. The presence of a home care giver can give the client greater control, security, and independence and reduce the chance of disability from home accidents.
People with dementia, Alzheimer Disease, mobility problems, and stroke conditions may need help with lifting objects or climbing stairs. In general, seniors who cannot get around easily, or need help getting into or out of the tub or bed, are likely to enjoy the greatest benefits from home care.