Thursday, May 29, 2014

Eldercare Tip: Three Things Your Aging Parent Needs Most

Your aging parent doesn't need a closet full of clothes.  Or a five-pound box of candy.  More than anything, he or she needs three things:

1.  To BE LOVED.
2.  To BELONG.
3.  To BE BRAVE.

Abby Durr, owner of Silver Age Housing and Care Referrals, expressed those thoughts not long ago. They guide our company as we work with families in finding housing and care for their loved ones. These principles can also apply to your relationship with your aging parent.

1.  YOUR PARENT NEEDS TO BE LOVED:  Love is expressed in many forms: sharing family photos and memories, paying and receiving compliments, and reminding our elders of their value as people created by God.  When they need care, in their home or in assisted living or an adult family home, pay attention to the caregivers.  Do they show love by making eye contact with the elders?  Are hugs, touches on the hand or shoulder or high fives a part of their day, assuming the resident wants that?  Do they know the residents' favorite foods and those they can't stand?  Asking questions and closely observing the caregivers'  behavior will help you determine whether they love what they  do, and the elders  they serve.  Love counts!

2.  YOUR PARENT NEEDS TO BELONG.  Being part of something bigger is an idea your aging parent understands.  He or she has survived The Great Depression, World War II and more. Camaraderie and sacrifice are more than words; they're etched into the character of this generation. Today your aging parent still wants to fit in.  In your family gatherings, that means taking time for conversation and encouraging contact with children and grandchildren.  In an adult family home or assisted living,  activities like sing-alongs and picnics can build community.  When people talk to each other, meals can feed both body and soul.

3.  YOUR PARENT NEEDS TO BE BRAVE.  Everyone wants to be able to do good for others.  Yet when elders are frail and need lots of help, it's easy for them to say, "What can I do for anyone?  I need someone to do the simplest things for me."  Abby's grandmother said those very words.  She suffers from Parkinson's and is growing increasingly dependent on others.  Abby wisely said, "Grandma, you have something we don't have:  time.  You can bless others by using your time to pray for your children, your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren."  Despite frailty, elders can help in their own way. In group living settings, I've seen residents fold towels and help caregivers measure ingredients for making cookies.  Others make homemade birthday cards for other residents.  When they give, they receive a bigger gift:  joy.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Eldercare Safety Valve: How APS Can Keep Your Parent Safe

Last month I hit a milestone after working in the eldercare field for 20 years.  I picked up the phone to make my first Adult Protective Services report after suspecting that an elderly woman was being neglected.  An investigation ensued, and afterwards, I was firmly convinced that APS plays a vital role in keeping our elders safe.  Including your parent.

Anyone who suspects abuse or neglect of what Washington State law calls a vulnerable adult can report to APS.  But some of us are called Mandatory Reporters.  Social workers, law enforcement, employees of nursing homes and health care providers are included in this group.  As a senior care referral agent, I, too, am required to report.

Yet I must admit when I called the Agency, I was more than a little nervous.  A little voice inside my head kept telling me, "You're making too much out of this."  But after rereading the law and my responsibility, I had to report.

The first person I met over the phone was an Intake Officer.  He was congenial and helpful, taking my report which sounded like this:

Karen, a middle-aged client of mine from out of state, told me her story.  She was in Washington visiting her mother.  Mom lived in an apartment with the other daughter who was an alcoholic.  Mom paid the rent in exchange for help with measuring her insulin,  monitoring medications and transporting her to the Kidney Center.  Also on the daughter's to-do list was shopping, cleaning and preparing meals.  Yet none of this was being done.  And Karen suspected that her sister was taking her mother's pain pills.  "This place is a pit," she said. "And I know my mother isn't eating right."

She also said her sister was using lies and manipulation to keep her mother from obtaining home care or moving to assisted living.

A Female Investigator was assigned to the case, which was given a number.  Karen's identity was kept confidential.  The officer paid a personal visit to Karen's mother's home to discuss the situation.

Afterwards,  she reported that the mother seemed to want to be in the situation, and there was not enough evidence of abuse or neglect to move forward with the investigation.   I was glad the situation was laid to rest.

I have other friends who have been in my shoes, reporting abuse or neglect.  One friend, who works at an assisted living community, walked into a female resident's room, only to find a male caregiver pulling down her pants.  For no good reason.  She called the hotline.

All 50 states have hotlines for reporting abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults.  They're good things for helping keep your parent safe.

If you suspect abuse of a vulnerable adult in Washington State call the statewide abuse hotline number at 1-866-EndHarm (1-866-363-4276).

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