SeniorCare Options is a Geriatric Care Management Service to assist families in providing the best care for their loved ones. When caregivers are feeling overwhelmed and aren't sure what to do next, we can help!
I can imagine you must feel frustrated with your family for not making more of an effort to stay connected to your father. People have several reasons why they don’t make time for a visit: they may be too busy, feel like they have nothing to say, or even find senior living facilities uncomfortable. Unfortunately, your siblings are missing an opportunity to spend time with an aging parent who is not going to be around forever, one who could benefit greatly from those visits. Let’s consider how visiting seniors can make a big difference in their physical and emotional health.
The Value of the Visit
Seniors as a demographic are more prone to isolation, especially if they are aging in place at home. As their peers and older family members pass away, they often feel alone. Those feelings of loneliness can lead to a decline in their cognitive ability or even depression and anxiety. When you visit your loved one, he or she can be engaged and feel appreciated.
A visit doesn’t have to be an all-day affair. Even a quick pop-in can brighten your loved one’s spirits. Aim for quality time, not quantity (of) time. You’ll both enjoy the time spent together even more if you don’t seem impatient or ready to bolt out the door. Just inform your loved one that you can only stay a moment or two, and then stick to the boundary you set. Maybe you can tie it into any errands you run on their behalf; dropping off essentials or getting prescription refills may give you or a sibling a clear reason to stop by.
When visits are difficult, such as when dementia makes conversation challenging or relationships are strained, focus instead on other ways to connect. Bringing a special treat, listening to music, or looking through photo albums can all allow you to interact without relying on chit-chat to pass the time. In fact, simply holding hands can provide gentle human touch for an elderly person who may not receive physical affection often.
On a Mission
Another important reason for visiting seniors on a regular basis is to ensure their safety. Observe them and their environment to get a sense of what’s going on. Is your loved one clean? Has he or she lost weight? Are medications being administered properly? Do they seem happy? By visiting frequently, you can clue in on any changes in their health, hygiene, cognition, and mobility. After all, an emergency alert system can only respond to so much, but laying eyes on your loved one can tell you so much more.
Checking in on seniors may even prevent some forms of elder abuse. If your loved one is at home, you can tell if any unnecessary work has been done at the house, follow up with chores or bill paying to make sure no unusual banking activity has occurred, and look for any unusual bruises or scratches. Abuse can also occur at a facility, and the staff and administration can get the message that you are involved and aware when you show up and ask questions.
From a Distance
Your family members may have legitimate reasons why they can’t visit frequently, especially if they work or live out of town. Encourage them to reach out in other ways. Sending cards or letters are a no-brainer, and everyone loves to receive mail. If your senior is computer-savvy, email can let him or her know you are thinking of them. Sending flowers or a plant, especially without a special occasion, can also be a lovely surprise.
Perhaps one of the easiest things to do is just pick up the phone and call to say hello. All it takes is a few minutes for a quick call so they can hear your voice. Better yet, set up an internet video call if you can. Imagine how much your loved one would enjoy a video chat on a laptop or mobile device so they can see those faces they miss so much. A Skype or Facetime call may take a bit of coordination, but every once in a while, that extra step could make your loved one’s day.
You can pass on some of these suggestions to your siblings or other family members and let them know that they can still make memories with your father while giving you a break from being the primary contact or caregiver. Hopefully, they won’t see your request as a guilt trip but rather what it is, a mutually beneficial and fleeting opportunity for visiting seniors while they still can.
First, I want to assure you that you are not alone; according to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 5.7 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, and that number does not include other forms of dementia. When your loved one has progressive memory loss, it can be overwhelming for you as a caregiver and for your entire family to learn to manage expectations and adjust to the change in your relationship. Add to that your concern for your senior’s quality of life and safety, and you can see why memory care is an option you should consider.
The Basics of Memory Care
The needs of a senior with dementia can be quite different from those with physical limitations that impede on their ability to live independently. Think about the concerns you have now for your loved one. Can your senior attend to basic self-care and hygiene? Does your loved one wander off? Is he or she isolated, bored, or lonely? What about agitation or confusion? Is there risk of elder abuse? Some of these concerns you have about your senior can be addressed with the level of care provided in a memory care community. The goal is to create a stress-free environment that allows for socialization, security, and self-expression in a way that can possibly even slow some of the progression of the cognitive loss.
Another key component of memory care is 24/7 supervision, which is critical for seniors with dementia. If your loved one ages in place, he or she may always not be able to have nor afford a private caregiver, and if you are the caregiver, well, you know you can’t be on call every second of the day. You can keep up with a few activities a week or some hygiene aspects, but it may not be as frequent as you or your senior would prefer. In a memory care facility, your loved one is never truly alone. Supervision or assistance is available any time of day or night, and planned activities are offered regularly for a routine that is so beneficial for a senior with dementia.
If you have served as your loved one’s primary caregiver, you may be experiencing some of those same feelings of guilt and frustration that your senior is. Dementia presents its own sorts of challenges, and family members may not be prepared to adjust to the change in their loved one’s behaviors or abilities nor handle the emotional toil these changes can take. In short, you may not be equipped to meet your senior’s specific needs, which can add to your stress level.
A memory care facility provides specialized training for its caregivers and other support staff. This expertise combined with compassion and patience means that your loved one can be engaged and stimulated. In a memory care senior living, your loved one may have a set schedule, daily activities, and social interaction that you may not be able to maintain on your own. When these needs are being met through round-the-clock memory care, you can focus your energy on spending quality time with your loved one without the added stress on your relationship. You can gain peace of mind knowing that when you are not there, your senior is safe and in good hands.
Some families hesitate to make any changes in their loved one’s living arrangements until some event happens, and then they scramble to find a facility that they are comfortable with. Instead, imagine touring memory care facilities, talking with staff, and seeing first-hand the kind of care provided. When you are proactive rather than reactive, you have options that can benefit your loved one.
I encourage you to listen to your intuition about your loved one’s cognitive loss and ask the advice of your aging life care manager or other medical provider about quality facilities they may recommend. If possible, visit the senior living facilities and ask questions about fees, services, staff training and ratios, and anything else you want to know. And don’t forget to start a discussion with your loved one as well to prepare them for the transition and how it can help them.
Let me assure you: many people who act as primary caregivers for their elderly parents or loved ones experience caregiver guilt at some point. It may be due to a demanding senior who doesn’t recognize the other responsibilities you have in your life. It could be caused by a sense of perfectionism, making you feel like you are never quite good enough. Perhaps you are the only one of your siblings who stepped up to help an aging mother or father. The point is that any variety of reasons can cause caregiver guilt, but you can change the way you feel to take better care of yourself and your loved one.
Why Do You Feel Guilty?
Caregivers struggle with finding balance between providing care for their loved ones and taking care of themselves, but caregiving is not an either/or situation. While you take care of your loved one’s needs, you should be concerned with your own health and well-being. Because of guilt, however, you may choose not to do something for yourself or give yourself a break. When you neglect your own care, you may feel resentful or wish that your caregiving responsibilities could end. Those negative feelings can lead to guilt and even put you at risk for depression if you don’t address them.
Stop and Think
You don’t have to feel guilty for your feelings; when you acknowledge how you feel, you can reflect on the cause of your guilt and how you can address it in a positive way. Caregiver guilt is a normal feeling when faced with the many responsibilities you have, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, you can make a choice to either feel bad or feel motivated to make some changes to reduce your stress, gain support, and even improve the quality time you have with your senior.
You Shall Overcome
How do you stop feeling guilty? Think about guilt like you would any behavior or habit you want to change. It is a process, and it takes time, but it’s worth it for your wellbeing and your relationship with your loved one. Accept that negative feelings are just as valid as positive ones, and then allow yourself to experience those feelings so that you can move past them. You should find ways to maintain balance in your life, such as scheduling time for exercise, a massage, a night out with friends, or a weekend getaway. You work hard, and you deserve it.
You may also want to join a support group with other caregivers who understand what you are going through and share what they do to take care of themselves. Asking for help from other family members (and being specific with how they can help you) is another way to lessen your load. If you don’t have anyone who can step up and help, you should look into respite care to give yourself a break when you need one.
Finally, try to let go of your perfectionism, and set boundaries so that you don’t take on more than you can handle. Remind yourself that there are moments of joy to be had even in adversity, and find the patience to experience and appreciate them. Give yourself permission to let some things go and focus on the essential tasks, which in turn can free up time that you can use for self-care.
Hopefully, these tips can help you feel less guilty and focus on yourself without the burden of caregiver guilt.
Providing care for your loved one can be overwhelming, and if you try to do it by yourself for too long, you can become stressed and eventually burned out. There is no reason for you to feel that way because you can always pull together a care team for seniors to take some of the chores off your plate and allow you to enjoy your father’s company again.
There Is no “I” in Team
Start building your team by reaching out to your siblings or other family members who can play a part. Let everyone know that you are asking for help as well as identifying what your goals are: better care for your loved one and less responsibility for you.
Involve trusted professionals as well. If your parent is in a residential facility, you may want to approach an administrator or social worker to be a part of the team. If your loved one is aging in place and has a caregiver, you may want to also get that individual involved. An Aging Life Care manager can be a valuable member of a care team for seniors by providing expertise, professional guidance, and resources that you may not be able to access on your own.
You should also talk to your loved one about your idea; he or she should be on board before you get too far in the process of creating a team. You want to ensure your senior is comfortable with the arrangement and has no objections to any particular family member or other professional involvement.
Make a Plan
Brainstorm with your team members to create a list of your senior’s needs and other responsibilities that you may have been doing by yourself. This is another area where an Aging Life Care manager is a tremendous asset; she or he can bring up concerns you may not have considered as well as help you prioritize your loved one’s needs.
Appoint a primary advocate for your loved one. It can be you, since you have been acting in that role the whole time, or it may be the power of attorney or other individual who is ready to assume a leadership position on the team. If no one is willing or comfortable stepping up, you may decide to take turns on a rotating basis to take the lead, but that could make your team less cohesive.
Time to Delegate
Once you determine your senior’s needs, you should determine who can take responsibility for each task. Consider the strengths of your team members as well as each person’s schedules to make it work for everyone. If asking for help isn’t your strong suit, have the care manager on your team take charge of the delegating. He or she can be objective and possibly diffuse any tension caused by hurt feelings that can arise between family members, especially when the relationship dynamic is changed.
Keep in mind that some responsibilities can be handled remotely, which means not every team member has to live locally to play a part. Team members who may not be able to assist in person can contribute financially, whether is it ordering and shipping supplies or covering the cost of a caregiver or aide so that you or the primary caregiver can have respite care on a regular basis. The less you must do by yourself, the more freedom you may have for self-care, which in turn can relieve your stress and leave you better prepared to care for your loved one.
Communication Is Key
How do you stay connected with your care team for seniors? Communication is a must! You don’t have to schedule meetings if you have long distance team members or professionals with busy schedules, but you can touch base with a group text or group you create on Facebook, LinkedIn, or another social media platform. Be consistent with your communication so that none of the responsibilities for your loved one falls through the cracks. Checking in with your care team can also ensure that everyone is aware of any changes or developments in your senior’s condition.
Hopefully, these suggestions can inspire you to reach out to your support group and get a care team in place. If it takes a village to raise a child, surely it can take a care team for seniors to preserve your loved one’s quality of life and your sanity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu season typically runs through May, so it is never too late to get a flu vaccine. This is especially true for the elderly, who may be more vulnerable to the flu than other populations. Seniors with the flu are a serious concern, especially if they have other health conditions that may weaken their immune systems. One of the main risks of the flu for elderly people is the possibility for developing pneumonia, because it can develop quickly and take up to several months to recover from.
The flu vaccine may not offer protection from every strand of virus, but it can also lessen the severity of the symptoms if your loved one does contract the flu. Ideally, you and your senior should receive the vaccine between late September and November, but even late winter and early spring can still have some benefits in reducing the flu risk.
In addition to the vaccine, there are other common-sense approaches to preventing flu in the elderly.
Washing hands thoroughly and regularly is one of the best approaches to resisting viruses and bacterial infections. You or a caregiver may need to supervise to ensure hand washing is adequate. You may also want to offer hand sanitizer when access to a sink is limited or difficult.
Encourage your loved one to avoid touching hands, eyes, and mouth as well. These facial features are where germs are most likely to enter the body, so breaking any habits of frequent contact can offer another layer of protection.
Healthy habits, such as regular exercise, getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, and eating a well-balanced diet rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals are essential for fighting disease of any sort, which is why it is a smart tactic for seniors with the flu.
This next bit of advice may be more of a challenge, especially if your loved one is in a residential care facility: try to avoid sick people. If there is a flu outbreak where your father lives, you should ask administration what steps they take to keep the residents healthy. Your loved one may need to stay isolated from the general population until the epidemic seems under control.
Make It All Better
What if you suspect your loved one has the flu? Get him or her to the doctor as quickly as possible for testing and an anti-viral prescription, if he or she can take it. For these medications to work, they should be administered without two days of getting sick. They do not cure the flu, but they can shorten the duration of the illness and lessen the severity of the symptoms your senior may be experiencing.
Here are some other tips to keep your loved one comfortable while recuperating:
Offer plenty of liquids to thin any congestion and stay hydrated
Use a humidifier to keep mucus membranes moist
Chicken soup is more than just a meal; it can actually lessen inflammation associated with colds and the flu
Stay away from others to protect them from the flu, or wear a mask when in public
If your senior is having worsening symptoms or difficulty breathing, have him or her seen by a medical professional without delay. Seniors with the flu are more likely to develop pneumonia, which can be life-threatening in the elderly. It’s not a chance you want to take. In fact, it’s a good idea to get your loved one vaccinated for pneumonia at the same time as the flu, especially if it has been over three years since the last vaccination.
You’ve got your work cut out for you, but hopefully this advice can help you and your senior stay healthy throughout the winter.
What an excellent question! It is a challenge to make your loved one feel like he or she is a part of the holiday fun without overwhelming him or her (or yourself, for that matter). Take a moment to reflect on some of the challenges your loved one may be experiencing and then determine ways of including seniors that work for them and you.
When All Is Not Merry and Bright
The holidays can be a difficult time of year for some people, and seniors are especially prone to feeling isolated, sad, and lonely during this season. If your loved one also has a chronic medical condition or dementia, he or she may not be able to adapt easily to changes in diet or routine, making it even more complicated to include him or her in family gatherings or other planned activities.
That doesn’t mean you should leave your senior out of the fun, but you may need to make a few changes to make it work. Find times other than meals to get together so that your senior can stick to a regular diet. You may also want to avoid late nights or any other activities that interfere with your senior’s schedule because big changes in a routine can be disorienting and stressful.
One of the best ways of including seniors is by talking with your loved one about how they like to celebrate. See what traditions he or she may remember or think makes the holidays special. If decorations brighten the mood, you could spruce up your loved one’s room with a treasured heirloom, small tree, or even a poinsettia or Christmas cactus. If holiday music is your senior’s bag, you could take him or her to a local concert if able or just play some of the classic carols he or she may enjoy.
You can also try some simple activities to celebrate, such as sending holiday cards or baking together. A senior may not be able to follow a recipe alone but could possibly help measure ingredients or decorate cookies; signing cards while you address them may be another way your senior can contribute. The activity is not as important to your loved one as the time spent together, especially if he or she feels valued and useful. If you focus on just one or two things that make the holidays special, you can create small traditions that involve your loved one.
Break Out the Albums
How often do you go through old photo albums with your mom or dad? The holidays are a great time to reminisce and reflect. Carve out an afternoon when you and your senior can look at pictures and see what he or she may remember.
Try to get other family members and generations involved in quality time but keep it simple. Instead of a large gathering, have one or two grandchildren or friends pay a short visit and encourage your senior to tell stories from his or her past. You never know what you might learn, even if the stories are not 100 percent accurate. You can plan visits around your senior’s routine to find times in the day when he or she may be more alert and agreeable.
Back to the Basics
Including seniors should be a natural way to celebrate the holidays, which may mean less stress for you too. Everything does not have to be perfect or over-the-top to be special; in fact, a simple, paired-down version of your holidays may make it easier for everyone. Less food, less shopping, less spending, less drinking can equal more rest, more relaxation, and more enjoyment. A simplified approach to your holidays could be your new family tradition!
Make Every Gift Count
Your loved one probably has few material needs, but a small gift may still be appreciated. Everyone likes to open a festive present, and chances are good that your senior hasn’t received a gift in a while. A nice hand lotion or puzzle book may fit the bill nicely, just enough to make him or her feel loved.
The best gifts are often the ones money can’t buy: your time and attention. Your loved one may appreciate more than a rushed visit with you, other family members, or friends. Maybe some of the time you save by doing less could be spent with your mom or dad, just being together.
I hope these tips help you do more than just survive the rest of the year, but actually enjoy the holiday season. Best of luck to you and your family, and Happy Holidays!
When it comes to seniors and dehydration, you are not alone. As people age, their bodies do not retain as much water, which means fluid and electrolyte loss can happen quickly. Elderly people may not feel thirsty or may not recognize those cues because of dementia. If your loved one has incontinence, he or she may limit fluid intake intentionally. Seniors may have difficulty with mobility, which may also affect their ability to get water when they need it. Even certain medications can have a diuretic effect. Dehydration can also be caused by bowel problems or malnutrition, which can affect seniors at a higher rate than the general population.
As you can see, there may be several barriers that can be easily overlooked by family members or caregivers; with so many other concerns and responsibilities that require your attention, you may not realize that your loved one is not getting enough to drink. Urinary tract infections can happen before you know it and can be one of the common causes of emergency room visits for elderly people. Here is helpful information for you to identify dehydration in your senior as well as how you can prevent it.
What to Look For
It is important for you or a caregiver to know the signs of dehydration before they become severe. Mild dehydration symptoms include:
Dry skin that has lost elasticity
These minor signs of dehydration can escalate quickly to more severe symptoms, such as the following:
Severe muscle cramps
Low blood pressure
Lack of sweat
Confusion or delirium
A trip to the doctor can help identify the cause and severity of dehydration, but you should not wait to see a doctor if severe signs are present; instead, a trip to an urgent care facility or emergency room may be warranted for seniors and dehydration.
Dehydration can be a one-time thing, but more often than not, it can become a chronic issue for many seniors. If ignored, dehydration can even lead to kidney failure, constipation or intestinal failure, high blood pressure, brain swelling, and seizures. Luckily, you, along with your senior’s medical providers and caregiver, can take preventative steps to protect your loved one with adequate hydration.
What You Can Do
The first line of defense is to drink more, but with some seniors, that is easier said than done. You can try some of these tricks to sneak more fluids into your loved one’s daily habits:
Try flavored waters or diluted fruit juice as an alternative to plain water
Add water-heavy fruits and vegetables during meals and snacks, such as berries in yogurt or milkshakes and smoothies between meals
Offer broth, pudding, gelatin, or popsicles as another option throughout the day
Place a water pitcher or insulated cup within easy reach of your senior
Limit coffee or tea, which may be dehydrating because of the caffeine, or, better yet, switch to decaf to avoid the diuretic effect of caffeine
Ask a caregiver or aide at a residential facility to monitor fluid intake and output
There may be another form of relief on the horizon: jelly drops. These edible pods were created with seniors in mind, especially those with dementia, and are still in the research and development stage. Jelly drops may be one of the smartest inventions designed for seniors and dehydration, and, hopefully, will be available globally before too long.
As we approach the winter months, you should still be on the lookout for signs of dehydration, especially because gas and electric heat and lower humidity can make stay hydrated a big concern. We tend to think of dehydration as a heat-related issue, but for seniors, it can be a concern any time of year.
Seniors who insist on staying home can be struggling with a loss of independence, and you as well as other adult children may feel guilty or anxious about how to balance that independence with safety. If your loved one is not convinced that assisted living is the right choice, you have options to make aging in place realistic by using the latest technology to monitor their health and protect them from elder abuse. Some of the new products are affordable, while others may require professional installation, monitoring, or customization. Here are a few of the types of smart technology for seniors that you may find helpful.
Video doorbell: This security product can protect your vulnerable loved one from door-to-door scams. With a video doorbell, your senior can see, hear, and speak to someone without opening the door and home to a stranger.
Digital thermostat: Seniors are notoriously sensitive to temperature changes because their bodies cannot regulate as they once did. A digital thermostat can be controlled by either voice or smart phone to set and monitor indoor temperatures for safety as well as comfort, which can be a godsend during the hottest and coldest months of the year.
Programmable light switches: These go beyond the traditional light timers that you plug into a wall. You can find switches that can even be controlled by smart phone while away from the home to reduce the risk of your senior falling in a poorly-lit room.
Automatic door and cabinet lifts: These renovations can improve mobility and access within the home. Imagine having a cabinet that adjusts to your senior’s height or range of motion as well as doors that open conveniently for people with gross motor limitations.
Voice-activated clock: Your loved one can stay oriented with a clock that gives them reminders for daily activities such as bathing or taking medicine. The best part is that these clocks can be recorded in family members’ voices so your senior can feel connected to loved ones whenever the clock alarm sounds.
Stovetop cook-stop: For seniors who still prepare their own food, this product can be extremely important. It is essentially a stovetop alarm system that can alert you if the stove is left on for too long or unattended, and it can also turn off the stove for you. Consider it as a part of your fire safety equipment, along with functional fire alarms and a fire extinguisher in the home.
Smart pill dispenser: Staying on top of multiple prescriptions can be a challenge for caregivers as well as seniors. These products can be set with flashing lights or audio reminders, and they can also be programmed to only open one compartment at a time, reducing the risk of your senior taking medication incorrectly.
Home assistant: You may have one of these smart devices in your own home, but home assistants can be invaluable for seniors. These products can play music, read books, make phone calls, and even control some of the other smart devices with simple voice commands. They can also be linked to a tablet or smart phone, which can give you a way to help your loved one when you are not with them in person.
Monitoring and alert system: These systems are like personal emergency response systems, only they do more than sound when a senior falls. They can provide reminders, healthy monitoring, social interaction, and emergency alerts, all through an easy-to-use dashboard system on your computer or tablet.
As you can see, you have lots of choices of smart technology for seniors that can meet your needs and fit in your budget. You can start small with only a few changes to help your loved one adjust before you move on to any system that is more comprehensive. Luckily, most are user-friendly and simple to use for both you and your senior.
Keep in mind that technology is always changing, so it wouldn’t hurt to do a little research once or twice a year to see what is new on the market that may make your senior’s life easier.
Oral health is an often-overlooked aspect of wellbeing for many elderly people. According to the National Institute of Health, the age group with the highest rate of tooth decay is people over 65 who have their natural teeth. Dental care for seniors should be a priority because untreated dental problems can cause more than a tooth ache; they can also affect overall health and quality of life.
As elderly people age, they tend to lose muscle strength and dexterity. The physical act of brushing and flossing may become more than just a chore: holding a toothbrush, winding floss around fingers, opening their mouths wide, and reaching those back teeth may not be possible anymore. At the same time, gum tissue may be shrinking, leaving roots vulnerable to bacteria and decay. Teeth may also have weakened with age, leading to cracks and breaks that can be painful.
Another common issue for seniors is dry mouth, which may be due to certain medications, health conditions, and aging. With less saliva to protect teeth and gums, decay can take over quickly, requiring multiple dental procedures to correct.
Seniors with dentures that don’t fit properly may also neglect their oral health because their mouths are uncomfortable. Any time elderly people experience dental pain, they may stop eating certain foods to minimize their discomfort, which can even lead to poor nutrition.
Cleaning Up the Act
It is never too late to take care of your loved one’s teeth and gums. Here are a few easy ideas to promote dental care for seniors:
• Encourage regular brushing and flossing. A brush with soft bristles is preferable, but a smart investment in a sonic toothbrush can make cleaning teeth a breeze. If traditional floss is too difficult, you can find floss picks, floss threaders, or water flossers that may be easier to use. You or a caregiver may need to supervise brushing and flossing or even take over the duties when your loved one has difficulty with motor skills or grip.
• Dentures should be taken out and cleaned every day. Your senior should rest without dentures for at least six hours every day to allow gums time to rest and reduce sores. If your senior complains of ill-fitting dentures, he or she may need to see a denture specialist called a prosthodontist who can offer solutions for denture problems.
• Regular dental exams should be scheduled for deeper cleaning and evaluation. Look for a dental practice that focuses on geriatric patients. Even seniors at a residential facility should have access to dental health professionals, and you may need to ask the facility administrators about what dental program they may have. Some dental providers have mobile practices and can go onsite to offer dental care for seniors onsite.
• Be sure to premedicate your loved one if he or she has a heart condition, anxiety, or is advised to do so by the dentist. Patients with chronic pain or dementia may also benefit from premedication.
• Combat dry mouth with regular mouth wash use or an oral spray that can moisten the tongue and gums. Chewing sugar-free gum can also stimulate saliva production. Staying hydrated is important to good oral health as well as overall physical health.
• Encourage your senior to stop smoking! Smoking and chewing tobacco can lead to oral cancer, so it is never too late to quit.
Hopefully your father has had successful dental treatments and is feeling better about his smile. Stay on top of the regular dental care, and you may be able to avoid a repeat of this experience.
We’ve all heard stories from friends or on the news about seniors who suffer financial abuse at the hands or strangers or relatives. Scams are more typically committed by strangers and can be on a small scale, such as someone going door to door offering unnecessary home repairs, or by professionals, such as those constant phone calls alleging income tax penalties or fake charities.
Elder exploitation, on the other hand, refers to the abuse from a family member or a caregiver. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, over 90 % of perpetrators of this kind of crime are people that the senior knows. Unfortunately, those familial relationships are exactly why this crime is under-reported. Seniors may be hesitant to turn in a family member because they may be concerned about isolation or alienation from other relationships. They may also be embarrassed of becoming a victim, although they have no reason to be.
Signs of Elder Exploitation
Seniors who have physical or mental disabilities could be at risk for financial abuse from a family member, caregiver, friend, or neighbor. This vulnerable population may not be capable of independence, which is why they turn to a trusted person to assist them with many aspects of their lives, from personal care and household maintenance to financial tasks such as banking and asset management. But what happens when that trusted person isn’t so trustworthy, and how do you know if abuse or exploitation is occurring?
It helps if you understand the pattern that elder exploitation can develop. Some of the more common forms of elder exploitation include:
Abuse of Power of Attorney to gain access to the senior’s information and resources
Stealing checks and forging signatures or forcing the senior to sign blank checks
Siphoning money from a joint account for personal use
Unauthorized use of ATM card
Withholding medical or personal care to coerce senior into meeting demands
Threatening senior with physical harm or isolation if he or she does not cooperate
Charging senior for services not provided or other forms of fraud by a caregiver (such as false time sheets, running personal errands at senior’s expense, or having senior pay caregiver’s bills)
A perpetrator may start small, possibly with one a couple of these signs, and become bolder as he or she gets away with more.
Prevention and Protection
These crimes, and they are crimes, can be small and subtle, but the damage they cause a dependent elderly person can be great. Seniors can become fearful, anxious, and depressed when a trusted person takes advantage of them, and they may not know or remember who they can trust. If the financial loss is significant, they may not be able to pay for their care now or in the future
If you suspect your loved one is being targeted or exploited, you should report your concerns to Adult Protective Services in your area. They can investigate any potential elder abuse and may work with law enforcement to stop it. In fact, if you have evidence of financial exploitation, such as cancelled checks or receipts, you can directly contact the sheriff in your area. They will contact Adult Protective Services for you and investigate possible criminal charges.
Even if you don’t have power of attorney, you can also talk to your senior’s financial providers to report suspicious activity or ask what programs they have that protect elderly clients. Encourage your loved one to speak up about any worries they may have and stay connected to other family members who may know more about any questionable activity.
You and your mother are doing the right thing by discussing her friend and being aware of this type of crime. Reassure her that you are there to keep her safe in any way she needs it.