In my last post, I discussed signs to look for when observing your senior loved one’s health. If he or she is struggling, you may want to begin making arrangements for increased care. The following are suggestions for how to proceed:
- Talk with your loved one about your observations. Be mindful of the best time and location to have the conversation, so as not to broach the subject when your senior is tired or possibly overwhelmed from a family gathering. Ensure your loved one that you want to be an advocate for his or her ongoing safety, independence, and quality of life.
- Ask permission to obtain a doctor’s appointment for a medical evaluation of your loved one’s symptoms. You may also want to obtain consent to assist in contacting trusted advisors (CPAs, financial advisors, bankers, or attorneys) to solicit their support in preventing fiduciary abuse, to which many seniors fall victim.
- Partner with your loved one’s primary care doctor to gain an understanding of the root cause of the changes you have observed.
While some age-related changes are unavoidable, others may be easily remedied with a team approach. For example, many seniors who are suffering from a urinary tract infection or mild pneumonia may exhibit weakness, confusion, and falls. After proper evaluation and treatment by a physician, these symptoms should resolve.
Individuals experiencing weight loss, weakness, and changes in cognition due to poor nutrition and hydration, as well as poor medication compliance, may experience tremendous improvement by hiring a part-time caregiver to assist with shopping, meal preparation, medication reminders, and companionship. Additionally, seniors experiencing depression (which may mimic early dementia) may have a poor appetite, demonstrate self-isolation, and have an overall failure to thrive. These issues may all be resolved with appropriate medical assessment and treatment. Once the medical causes are ruled out and the support system is evaluated, you will be able to gain clarity on longer-term processes such as dementia.