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Young at heart PDF Print E-mail
Written by Erin LeBlanc   

According to AARP, 80 percent of seniors have at least one chronic health condition, and 50 percent of seniors have at least two (including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, etc).

Many seniors live in an unsafe environment and are susceptible to injuries by falls or taking their medications at inappropriate times or doses. It is important to have plans in place and help seniors prepare for future needs.

In such environments that are not always perfect and living in rural communities, our resources can be limited. One of the basic things that each senior and their families should have in place is an emergency plan of action. Such plans should not be too complex. Dr. Eva Mor, PhD has written a book called Making the Golden Years Golden and describes about such plans. Here is a sample of the plan in a short form:

—Know to recognize the signs of decline and be ready to step in. You may be the one that upon noticing mental or physical changes needs to establish greater oversight.

Among changes you may notice are signs of neglect, confusion, clothing soiled and/or a significant loss of weight, which are all indicators of crisis that need to be addressed. If upon visiting we notice neglect, foul odor or a senior that is still in his or her night clothing at midday, it should alert us that intervention is needed.

—Advise your parent they will need to protect themselves legally. They need to put in place legal instruments such as power of attorney, living will and health proxy. They need to know they should choose a health proxy representative who will be available to the health care providers at a time when the patient is not able to voice his or her wishes.

Your parent may naturally choose you as his or her health proxy, but if you live far from them, you may want to share that responsibility with someone, a relative or a friend, who lives near your parent and can be available in time of emergency.

—Advise your parent to be on the alert for scamming. Last year Americans were scammed to the tune of $60 billion. According to the AARP a third of this amount was scammed out of the elderly. In my opinion this number is actually much higher as many of the seniors do not realize they were scammed or are embarrassed to report the fact that they were scammed.

Advise your parent not to accept phone marketing calls and just hang up. They should never give out personal information, such as social security number or bank account number, over the phone.

—Advise your parent or their caregiver to keep an up-to-date list of their medication. Recommend they keep a list of medications that is current, which includes name, dosage and mode of usage. Due to multiple health issues and care provided by several specialists, all doctors should be made aware as to what the others are prescribing.

Advise your parent to take a copy of this list to all doctors appointments. There are many aids to pre-pour medication to help the elderly to avoid either taking meds twice, not remembering if they took the medication already or forgetting to take the medication altogether.

—Help your parent to develop a list of emergency contacts, such as their children, other relatives, neighbors or anyone that can be of help in a time of emergency.

Your parent needs to have on this list the names of all the physicians that he or she currently receives care from. The doctors need to be listed by name, specialty and with phone numbers and addresses. If home care is provided through an agency, the contact information of the agency should be included on this list.

—Suggest to your parent to develop a list of his or her personal information to include Medicare card information, Social Security and insurance information. This information should be at their fingertips for quick retrieval in a time of emergency.

—Help your parent to safe-proof their home. Seventy-eight percent of injuries within the senior population occur in their homes. The elderly needs someone to walk through their home and point out the safety measures that should be implemented. These should include safety bars in the bathroom, removing of area rugs, etc.

Suggest they develop habits that will keep them safe, such as bringing a glass of water to the bedside to avoid trips to the kitchen in the middle of the night. Leaving a light on at night will reduce the chance of tripping and falling. Keep a phone in the bathroom and next to the bed.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 79 percent of seniors are living in their own home with or without assistance, but most can benefit from assistance. Many of the seniors do not have someone to step in and put in place a plan for them, so the responsibility falls on all of us, the society at large to help to protect our seniors. As a first step let’s protect our loved ones and help them develop an emergency plan of action for their own protection.

If you have a parent that is still in their own home, or you are a senior yourself and would like to find out about services that may be available, please feel free to give me a call, and I would be happy to provide some assistance.

Reminder: If you are a family member/friend of a resident in Regent Park Nursing Home, we have just begun having Family Council Meetings on the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the dining room.

Erin LeBlanc, Senior Service Coordinator/Long Term Care Ombudsman for Phillips County, 970-854-2949.