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‘Holiday Reality Check’ Gives Elderly Parents a Safety Net

Real-life medical and health advice from an experienced nursing professional who manages teams of private duty nurses and health technicians.

This is the almost-but-not-quite peaceful time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Your digestive system and nerves have just a minute or so to relax.

You had the full turkey dinner at your mom and dad’s house. You did the cooking as you have for the past few years because mom is not quite up to pulling off such an event by herself as she did when she was your age.

So you get to do the honors. It was exhausting but satisfying. All your kids were there. Aunts, uncles and cousins, too.

Mom and dad are getting older now, and you’re always concerned about them because they are living on their own. In recent days, you have become very sensitive to the changes that age can impose. It’s the price of being a caring adult child. But this was the first year you started to pay special attention to them this way.

These had been those years when your roles had shifted subtly, and you took pride by helping them in ways they used to help you.

One of these days you’ll be the one who makes “the decision”. When will it be time for residential assisted living or in-home help to keep them safe? Or perhaps it’s a more systematic method to organize their outings or regularly monitor their domestic needs.

You know it’s no longer merely a question of chronological age to think of these issues. But life conditions change. Health changes. Fitness changes.

But how do you know when to pay special attention and what you should be looking for?

As it turns out, there are good tools to help you. Those of us who train in-home nurses use a checklist of symptoms and clues. Over the next few weeks as you ratchet up to the whirlwind of Christmas or Hanukah, I’ll offer the “holiday reality check.”

If you are worrying about missing some basic signs, here are five categories from the “reality check.”

1: Is your parent starting to have difficulty with basic tasks? Is walking and talking becoming a stressful chore? And does getting dressed every day seem difficult?

2: If there are stairs in their home, do they have a problem getting up and down easily? Even on the main floor, do they find it more difficult every day to move from room to room? Is it harder for them to organize how they cook and eat?

3: Is their personal hygiene becoming more unpredictable? Do they bathe as often as they once did or do they seem sloppy when they once were fastidious about personal appearance and dental hygiene? Perhaps they’re not worrying about their hair being combed and washed.

4: Check around the house to see if they are tending to basic household chores. If they have piles of unopened mail and unpaid bills, it’s a sign. If they have regular medications, maybe they are managing it less effectively. Check for low food supplies; dents and scratches on their car. One telltale sign is a growing number of cigarette burns on furniture or carpets.

5: Then there are significant changes in basic good health. Do you see weight loss, difficulty sleeping, hearing loss, bed-wetting, and bruises from falls, or skin burns from cooking accidents? Do they spill more items during cooking than seems explainable? (Some of us have always been clumsy.)

None of these signs by themselves mean your parent needs nursing help. Everyone has accidents and trends in their behaviors.

But it’s equally important to know how to read signs that someone you love needs support and help.

If you are beginning to wonder if some level of private duty nursing help would make their lives better, give me call or visit my website at http://www.assuredhealthcare.com

Who am I, and why would a person listen to me? Both fair questions. I’m Christine Hammerlund and I’ve been a nurse for years. I have delivered babies, saved lives, and cared for hundreds of patients through their medical triumphs and tragedies. Now I run Assured Healthcare at http://www.assuredhealthcare.com. We're a multi-million dollar medical staff provider in Illinois. I live in Antioch, Ill. Got health questions for me, whether large or small? I’ll answer. Visit us at http://www.facebook.com/AssuredHealthcareStaffing  and Chrishammerlund@yahoo.com

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