What To Do When Elderly Loved Ones Can't Take Care Of Themselves

Source: 
GateHouse News Service
Published: 
09/23/2011

Many elderly people today want to live out their lives in their own homes, where they feel comfortable in their surroundings, instead of a nursing home, retirement facility or relative’s house.

What can you do if you suspect your elderly loved one no longer can handle being on his or her own but doesn’t want to move? If they’re competent, you don’t have much legal recourse. They have rights. But geriatric experts say there are steps you can take, either by using your own devices or with help from outside agencies.

1. Have frequent conversations with the elderly person, find someone who can. While you’re at the house, check for signs of self-neglect: Is the refrigerator empty, or is there an inch of dust on the bathtub, indicating the person hasn’t bathed?” said Marion Somers, author of the book “Elder Care Made Easier.”

2. Bring concerns to your loved one’s attention, always using the pronoun “I,” not “you,” Somers said. “Say ‘I see you’re not eating,’ or ‘I think your bills aren’t getting paid.’ They become defensive when you say ‘you.’ And don’t point your finger at them.” When working on a solution to the problem, always include the elder person and again use the word “I,” Somers said. For instance, say, “I’ve been thinking of putting in grab bars by the bathtub. What do you think?”

3. Go to primary doctor visits with the senior and have three-way conversations with the doctor and your loved one so you are abreast of their medical needs, Joy said. Sharon Merriman-Nai, co-manager of National Center on Elder Abuse, said some physicians are going through training to detect whether seniors are no longer able to care for themselves.

4. Sometimes an outside agency has better luck with an elderly person than a loved one, said Diana DiGiorgi, executive director of Old Colony Elder Services, one of 27 Aging Services Access Points in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. “Often, an outside agency comes in with no emotion. They often bring calm to the situation,” she said.

5. If you feel the elderly person is guilty of self-neglect, report it to an Adult Protective Services agency in your state, Merriman-Nai said. “This way the person concerned about the elderly individual doesn’t need to make the decision about what happens,” she said. She said the reporter could be a relative, neighbor, friend or anyone else. She said each state has its own procedures to address these matters.

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