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Does Your Elderly Loved One Need More Care than You Can Give
At some point in life, you may become a caregiver to a senior parent with dementia, Alzheimer’s or another similar hardship. You may have to decide at some point if you can handle the care yourself or if you should leave your elderly loved ones to be cared for by someone else. Making this decision can be a complicated and emotionally wrenching experience both the caregiver and the senior parent. You may worry whether or not they will be safe? Will they wander off? Will they let strangers into the house? Will they turn on the stove and forget to turn it off?
Caring for a senior parent can be heartbreaking and challenging when the realization sets in that the strong, self-sufficient adult that has been there for years is no longer capable of taking care of themselves. It can also mean a real loss of freedom and flexibility and may require you to develop creative strategies to accomplish daily errands and tasks. For the senior adult with dementia, it can be equally difficult to acknowledge and accept that physical, emotional or mental changes have reduced their independence.
It is important to try to balance the safety of the senior with the needs of both the senior and the caregiver to retain as much independence as possible. As a result, you should include as many people as you can in the decision-making process, even the senior parent. You may also want to ask for guidance from other caregivers, such as family members and friends; paid caregivers who know the senior’s abilities and limitations; and elder care professionals such as doctors, nurses, and social workers.
There are some questions you can ask yourself that will help guide you in making a decision. If the answer to any question is “no,” it may no longer be possible for the senior to be left alone, even for a short period of time. Instead, moving into an assisted living facility may be an appropriate choice.
A few of the questions you may need to ask yourself may begin with does your parent or grandparent understand how to leave the home if necessary? Do they know where the door is located and how to exit the building?
Another question you may want to ask is will your elderly loved one stay home or near the house rather than wander off? If they go outside, do they know where they live and how to get back inside?
You might want to also think about whether or not your aging parent or grandparent can identify signals, such as smoke from the kitchen or fire alarms that would alert them to potential dangers? Do they know how to access emergency services and dial 911? Would they be able to communicate over the phone, and can they physically get to a phone no matter where they are?
It’s also important to decide if your loved one has frequent life-threatening medical emergencies that might require immediate intervention. Do they know where any medication they might need is located, and do they have the capacity to select the right medicines, as well as follow the directions on the prescription?
Another important question to consider is whether or not your senior family member has the judgment to identify who they should and should not let into the home including if they know to allow family, friends and emergency personnel in.
Can your elderly loved one prepare meals for themselves if they get hungry? Are they able to use the stove, and will they remember to turn it off? Another important question to think about is whether your parent or grandparent can get to the bathroom and use the toilet on their own. If not, alternatives have to be established.
A question perhaps not often thought of is will your loved one be afraid to be alone for an hour or more? Do they become clingy when caregivers depart and make frequent telephone calls if they are left alone?
After you have answered these questions and decide that it is still safe to leave your senior loved one at home alone, you should regularly re-evaluate their living arrangements to ensure their safety. You will also need to be aware of any changes in their condition and abilities. Pay attention to whether or not they seem to fear being alone, it could be a sign that at some level they know they are not capable of coping with any emergencies that might arise.
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