Older Americans Month
Age Out Loud!
May is recognized as Older Americans Month (OAM). Getting older doesn’t mean what it used to – some say “70 is the new 50!”. For many seniors reaching retirement age and beyond, it is a phase of life where interests, goals, and dreams can get a new or second start. Today, aging is about living life to the fullest in a way that suits you best.
Since 1963, OAM has been a time to celebrate older Americans, their stories, and their contributions. This annual observance of seniors offers a special opportunity to learn about, support, and recognize our nation’s older citizens. This year’s theme, “Age Out Loud,” emphasizes the ways older adults are living their lives with boldness, confidence, and passion while serving as an inspiration to people of all ages. Seniors Helping Seniors Home Care recognizes OAM 2017 by focusing on how older adults in our community are redefining aging—through work or family interests, by taking charge of their health and staying independent for as long as possible. We are dedicated to assisting and supporting seniors in whatever way they need to be able to live life to the fullest.
The majority of seniors want to stay in their homes for as long as possible. Home is where seniors are most comfortable. Home is familiar and provides comfort to seniors especially those who may be experiencing the challenges of Dementia or physical illness. Aging gracefully in the home environment often means accepting help to remain independent and safe. Family members often step in when they notice a parent struggling with activities they are no longer able to manage or perform effectively.
The first indication that a parent is struggling may come during a holiday visit where things just don’t seem right. Adult children who live close by may notice their parents decline over a longer period of time. Here are some questions to assess the safety of a senior living alone:
- Does the senior know how to leave the home if necessary, know where the exits are and how to use the locks?
- Do they stay close to home or have they started wandering, perhaps having to ask a neighbor or bystander how to find their house when they are out walking?
- Can they identify warning signs such as smoke from the kitchen or the ringing of a fire alarm – have you tested them recently?
- Are they able to use the phone competently, communicate their address correctly and able to dial for emergency services?
- Are they able to handle their money responsibly? Have you reviewed their checkbook to be sure they are not sending money to multiple solicitors, charities, political groups, etc.? Seniors who start contributing excessively to these groups often get targeted and put on mailing lists. They could go through thousands of dollars before anyone becomes aware of the issue.
- Is their medical condition stable? Do they have frequent emergencies that require immediate intervention including multiple calls to the 9-1-1 operator?
- Are they able to manage their medications without being reminded? Have you monitored their medication intake to be sure the correct types and amounts of medication are being taken each day?
- Do they use good judgment about letting strangers into their home? Would they be able and willing to let emergency personnel in? Have they been taken in by a phone scam?
- Are they able to get around the house safely, use the toilet on their own, etc.?
- Have they lost noticeable weight? Can they prepare themselves something to eat when hungry? Can they use the stove and remember to turn it off?
- Are they afraid to be alone, have heightened fear of crime or break-ins, make frequent phone calls for reassurance? If they are afraid to be alone it may be because they know they are not capable of taking care of themselves.
Seniors are sometimes slow to recognize their growing needs for assistance. It is not unusual for the senior to say they are doing just fine and don’t need any help. They often say their “children worry too much” with the underlying message “we wish they would just let us be.” Seniors who have dementia may be particularly resistant to help and unable to recognize their growing limitations. Adult children have to balance their concern for their parent’s safety with their parent’s stated wish to remain independent.
Caring for an aging parent is never easy. It is important for family caregivers to take time for themselves. Respite from day to day responsibilities allows the family caregiver to recharge their batteries and reconnect with their own family. Time away also benefits the senior they are caring for. Stress, illness and resentment can result when caregiving responsibilities become overwhelming, damaging the relationship with the one you are caring for.