John is the oldest son in a family of four siblings. Their aging parents retired years ago and have enjoyed living in an active adult community in Florida. John and his siblings all live in various states other than their parents. When their parent’s health began to fail last year, John’s siblings “voted” that as the eldest child, he should be the one to help their parents with their health care decisions.
Worried and Far Away:
Living far away has made it difficult for John to know where to begin. When John calls his parents, they sound happy and well cared for. Both his mother and father deny having any unmet needs. Still, john worries if his parents are truly thriving. His father has had several recent falls. Now, John is feeling even more worried as he leaves for Florida for an emergency visit. His father has fallen and suffered a broken hip. He is the hospital and will have to have surgery. His mother called and told John she was certain everything will be “fine in a week or two when dad is back on his feet”.
John wants to believe his Mother. He would like to think his parents will be able to continue to live on their own, but deep inside he knows they need help. He has read about the effects of social isolation on seniors. John’s parents used to talk all about the fun they had going out with friends and the events they attending. Now they rarely leave home for anything other than medical reasons. But still, how could he really know what kind of help his parents needed? What should he look for during his visit?
Preparing for the Visit:
John was planning on visiting his parents soon to see first hand how they were doing. He did not anticipate his visit would be under such extreme conditions. Non-the-less, this visit gives John the perfect opportunity to see if his parents are really getting along as good as they want everyone to believe.
To prepare for his visit, John has researched information regarding the pros and cons of home care and community care . He also gathered information on the signs to look for when visiting to see if his parent’s needs are being met.
When remote caregivers visit loved ones, they may have a short time to determine if there are any unmet needs. Are they really doing as well as they say they are? Are the current services enough? Are they safe?
Five Signs of Unmet Needs:
To help navigate the difficult process of assessing for unmet care needs when visiting from far away, consider the following:
- Evaluate prescription medications: Look at the date the pills were last dispensed and the number of pills dispensed. Based on how the pills were ordered, does the amount of pills left in the bottle(s) add up to what the amount should be? Is the amount over or under in quantity if the daily dose(s) was taken correctly?
- Evaluate eating habits and food supply: How old is the food in the refrigerator? How is the food stored? Is there a healthy variety of food in the home? What types of food containers do you see in the garbage? Are clothes fitting appropriately or does it appear they have lost weight?
- Evaluate management of finances: If your loved one is still managing a bank account, ask to see the bank statement. Are the transactions appropriate? Are funds being paid out that are questionable? Are bills being paid on time?
- Evaluate personal hygiene: Are there any odors in the home? Are they well groomed? Any sores or open areas on their skin? Is the laundry kept up? Bed sheets clean?
- Evaluate environment for safety and sanitation: Are the walkways free of clutter and fall hazards? Are they able to get in and out of the shower safely? Walk safely in all areas of the home without tripping and/or falling? Are they able to get in and out of the bathroom without difficulty? Is the living area maintained in a clean and sanitary manner?
When deficits are found in any of these five areas, it is time to reconsider the current plan. While a loved one may tell you “all is well”, it certainly will not be well for long if overall needs are going unmet.