My first home care client was a lovely elderly lady with memory loss that loved to cook. She ordered groceries from a local
Scenarios like this are common reasons that people choose to reach out to me for advice/help with their loved one, to determine if their living arrangement is still safe. Whether it’s a fall, getting lost while running an errand, or potential food poisoning, I begin each conversation with a series of questions that help me understand the loved one’s personality, assess their safety and cognitive function, and determine if the living arrangement is still safe for them.
Be an Advocate
We need to advocate for our aging loved ones without overly diminishing their rights. If they are falling often and refuse to use a walker or cane, or they refuse to remove throw rugs in their home, I will help you determine cognitive ability and reasonable thought process. We must also consider their personality, and your loved one’s tolerance for risk. Questions to consider:
- Are they placing only themselves at risk, or are their decisions creating a threat to others?
- Do these decisions and behaviors cause an inconvenience that only impacts them, or are they requiring intervention from friends or family to help them when they have misjudged?
“We need to advocate for our aging loved ones without overly diminishing their rights.” (Click to tweet this quote)Barb Barber, Steps to Senior Care
These are complicated questions with no easy/clear answers, but the process of asking these questions will help you know that you have given careful thought when you must make hard decisions that others may question.
Assessing Risk for Your Loved One
All of us take risks that seem excessive or unnecessary to others.
These risks can range from smoking when we know we should stop, overeating when we are obese, walking through bad neighborhoods at night, driving too fast, drinking milk past the due date, and many more. None of which would merit the loss of decision-making rights. Unless the smoking also involved putting a cigarette down and falling asleep, or when overeating leads to dangerous blood sugar levels, or fast driving causes an accident with an innocent person. Then an intervention would seem more appropriate, even necessary. President H.W. George Bush went skydiving on his 90th birthday…
Your loved one may not worry about falling at home and breaking a hip, but if other people are affected, they should consider the impact beyond themselves. Accidents will happen, and most families count it an honor to help when they do. But behavior that increases the likelihood and severity of accidents must be evaluated and addressed.
What’s the Impact: Not all bad decisions are due to being inconsiderate. Sometimes the person has a lack of insight into their behavior. They misjudge the severity of the
Evaluating Their Environment
As you evaluate the safety of a loved one in their current environment, be careful to arrive at a balanced assessment that is neither too casual, nor too overbearing. Look for patterns that recur and check with a doctor or a person with experience in working with the elderly to make sure your thought process is measured enough to maintain the person’s rights but proactive enough to protect them from possible harm to themselves or others.
Every Person’s Situation is Unique
My first home health care client with the love of cooking…My job as her home health aide was to visit weekly, and clean out her refrigerator, throwing all the food away that had been cooked and stored for over a week. Other than her fondness for cooking, and her lack of food safety habits, she was relatively safe living in her own home.
We assessed her personality, current environment, risk, cognitive awareness and determined that with a little help in the kitchen her living arrangements were manageable.
What habits or behavior would cause you to worry, or wonder if your loved one was safe at home? If you are concerned about a loved one and looking for direction, please contact me.
Later in my home health career, I met a lady who was becoming forgetful but seemed safe in her home. Until her daughter discovered who was visiting her…..check back next week for the full story or subscribe below to receive articles straight to your inbox.
Brenda Forster says
Love the common sense Barb brings to every situation she deals with. This blog is fantastic. It is so true when a loved one has issues to see if it is fixable with the least amount of change for your loved one. Change is hard for all ages but the elderly feel everyday their world
is changing. A friend dies, a new online program is the only way to get something, their favorite restaurant or church is closing. Can you imagine the daily changes our 80 year olds deal with? Thank you Barb for being there to navigate others through these things.
Brenda Forster NP,
Geriatric Memory Care
UW Health, Madison, WI