“How do you know when it’s time to check in on your aging loved ones and what to do next?”
This is a grave subject matter because we have a duty of care and a responsibility to look out for our aging parents, aunts, uncles, or loved ones, whoever they may be in our lives, especially around the holiday season. With Thanksgiving just passed and the Christmas holiday coming up, it is an excellent opportunity to look into the status of your aging loved ones.
It is important to see if they need care, direction, or assisted living to make their lives more comfortable and safer.
I have devised a simple way to remember and help guide you, known as the four ‘H’s. The four ‘H’s will help you assess and evaluate the status of your elderly loved one. It can also help you determine if they need help or can remain independently living safely in their home.
The first ‘H’ is when you go over to spend time with your elderly loved one, make sure you give them a hug. This will let them know that you’re there for them and love them. It is also vital for you to savor that moment, as you never know what the future holds.
The second ‘H’ is to check on their health and well-being. You can do this by asking them questions and making observations. You want to examine, first and foremost, their physical health.
This can be determined by how they look, whether they are taking care of themselves, exercising, and getting out of the house. When you look at them, do they appear to be malnourished, or do you believe they are eating well?
In addition to their physical health, you want to assess and evaluate their cognitive or mental health as best as possible. For example, are they confused or alert when you speak with them? Do you suspect that they might have some level of dementia? Finally, you can also assess their emotional health. Do they appear depressed, or are they happy? Are they experiencing some joy in their lives?
The third ‘H’ is hygiene. How do they look and smell? Are they bathing or showering daily? When evaluating hygiene, we look at what we refer to in the elder law industry as activities of daily living, or ADLs. It is essential that your loved one, aging in place at home independently, can maintain and manage their own activities of daily living.
One easy way to determine if they are accomplishing activities of daily living is by examining whether they can do the five basic activities each morning.
1) Are they getting out of bed?
2) Can they sit up and put their feet on the floor either on their own independently, with a cane, or with a walker? Can they get to the bathroom?
3) Can they bathe or shower independently?
4) Can they dress independently?
5) Can they eat on their own?
As you evaluate their hygiene, you should check off these five daily living activities. If they cannot, you need to really consider whether they are having trouble taking care of themselves and are suffering. If you are concerned with their behavior, you need to look further into what else might be happening in their lives.
The last ‘H’ is hoarding. There are concerning behaviors with hoarding that may stand out to you on your visit. This includes seeing property around the home, trash building up, or things in the refrigerator that are spoiled, outdated, and not being thrown out. They could be signs of potential cognitive decline and confusion.
If you believe after your wellness visit that your loved one is suffering and in need of assistance, then it is strongly recommended to have a family care meeting. Choose people you trust in your family and have your loved one’s best interests at heart. Discuss your observations at the family care meeting and determine if your loved one has a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy established.
It is an excellent route to utilize what we refer to as the least restrictive means to help them. However, the first line of defense in helping them is to complete the big six disability planning. If you are interested in learning about the big six disability planning, please check out my other videos.
Have a great holiday, stay safe and do the wellness check with the 4-H’s!