Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vigilance is the Byword for Keeping Your Aging Parent Safe

Vigilance.  That word keeps running through my mind.  To keep your aging parent--and other vulnerable older adults--safe from neglect and abuse, it takes a united front.

The need for resolve, consistency and cooperation in keeping elders safe struck home with me just days ago.  Earlier this month a 29-year-old owner of a Bothell adult family home was arrested for burglarizing 8 banks between January and September.  His heists were coined the "Tour de Banks," since he rode a bicycle for his getaways. His proceeds went to paying gambling debts.

Cooperation between police, bank officials and the adult family home employees was key in solving the crime.  Little things--like his employees noting they suddenly received their pay in cash, rather than by check, prompted suspicion.   So did his cell phone records, which pinpointed his location near the banks in question at the times of the robberies.  His bank deposits posed questions, too. As did his withdrawals.

Fortunately, the adult family home residents have been placed elsewhere, and the home shut down. Here is the Seattle Times story:

The case is closed, except for the trial, but the question remains:  How can we as senior care professionals and as sons and daughters of the frail elderly, keep our elders safe?  Senior care professionals are mandated reporters: if we even suspect abuse, abandonment, neglect or financial exploitation, we MUST report it to the DSHS hotline, for those living in assisted living or adult family homes, or to Adult Protective Services, for those living at home.

Adult children are also encouraged to report suspected abuse.

It takes a united effort to keep elders safe.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Eldercare 101: Tips on Talking With a Parent Who Has Dementia

Your parent has dementia.  And you may be scratching your head, wondering how to communicate.

Last week I attended a "Dementia Specialty Training," taught by Jeannine C. White, RN, MSN.  She offered guidelines that are as applicable for adult children as for full-time caregivers.  Try some of these ideas.

1.  Present one question or statement at a time.  If necessary, repeat the question or statement, using the same words and tone exactly.

2.  Keep questions simple.  Ask one-part questions such as, "Do you want tea?"  Do not ask open-ended questions like, "What do you want to drink?" or multiple-choice questions:  "Do you want tea or coffee, and do you want it now or with dessert?"  Eventually, even questions that can be answered by "yes" or "no" may be too hard.

3.  Speak slowly and clearly, in an adult manner.  Allow your parent time to think and respond.

4.  Talk about concrete (real) action and objects.  People who have a dementing illness cannot deal with non-concrete ideas, such as planning for a future birthday party or wedding or voting in an election.

5.  Use nouns or names, not pronouns.  For example, say, "Fred is coming today," rather than "He is coming today."

6.  Use positive statements.  For example, say, "Please stay in the house," rather than "Don't go outside."  People with impaired memories can better understand what you want them to do than what you do not want them to do.

7.  Use gestures and visual aids. Objects such as a toothbrush or comb can help identify activities.  Pictures of objects also can be used to convey ideas.

8.  Use touch, as appropriate.  Holding hands, hugging or combing your parent's hair shows warmth and affection, even when words don't do the job.

9.  Respond on a "feeling" level.  For example, if your parent says, "You stole my purse," respond by saying, "I know you are upset because you cannot find your purse.  I will help you look for it."  This kind of statement reassures your parent that you are there for them.

Can you think of other tips that help adult children speak with their aging parent who has dementia?
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