At some point in life, you and your parents may swap roles. You will become the caretaker while they will rely on you for more and more things. While this transition is completely natural, it can make many people feel uncomfortable and overburdened. After all, you want to make sure your parents are safe as they become more vulnerable, just as they did fo you when you were a child. Following a few basic guidelines can help you set up a framework for safety that can work for a variety of housing situations and ability levels.
1. Check on Them Regularly
Just like your parents checked in on you as you were growing up, now you’ll need to check in with them regularly to make sure things are going well. Ask about basics like medicines and how they are sleeping and eating, but be careful about taking answers at face value, especially if your parents have any sign of cognitive decline. You may need to follow up on any phone calls with an in-person visit to verify that there are sufficient foods and supplies in their home.
2. Watch Out for Signs of Abuse
Elder abuse is a serious problem. It often takes the form of nursing home abuse, although home health aides and companion care providers can also be sources of concern. Learn to identify warning signs of abuse and report them to the proper authorities. If your complaints aren’t taken seriously, take them to someone in a higher position. Alternatively, you may decide to take steps to document the evidence.
3. Provide Them With an Emergency Contact Device
Older, frail adults who live alone can get themselves into potentially dangerous situations if they fall or get stranded. An emergency communication device can be a lifesaver. They alert authorities or a designated contact person when armed. Also known as medical alert devices, these are generally wearables like a pendant or watch. They are available with and without monthly subscriptions, so be sure to fully investigate the options you are choosing from.
4. Perform a Home Safety Audit
Most people know that falls are a leading cause of hospitalizations for seniors. Many do not realize just how many older adults are affected by falling each year though. According to the CDC, more than 1.6 million older adults were treated for falls in emergency departments in 2012. Of those, more than 12,000 died. Don’t let your parents become one of those statistics. Go through their home with a fall safety checklist and remove hazards as they are identified. Sometimes, those simple precautions can make all the difference.
5. Accompany Them to Doctor’s Appointments
It is easy to get overwhelmed at a doctor’s appointment. Add in a chronic health condition or two and possibly some cognitive decline or confusion, and there is no doubt your parents aren’t getting everything they could out of regular appointments. Whenever possible, set aside time to attend visits with them. Keep a record of any symptoms and document the answers to your questions.
Luckily, keeping elderly parents safe is not an impossible task. Keep an eye out for signs of trouble, keep their home safe and well-stocked, and check in regularly with them and medical providers to ensure everything is going smoothly.