In the first key, we talked about the importance of managing physical health concerning long-term medical conditions and disease management: Read here. In this post, we will talk about managing a second but critical factor in keeping elders at home: mobility and activities of daily living. As a senior care manager, I’ve seen many people that have found themselves living somewhere they did not want to because they did not manage this second key of providing for their safety and wellness on their own.
Key 2: Activities of daily living.
Activities of daily living, or ADLs are the things that you must do every day to provide for your health and safety. These include things like cooking, bathing, and cleaning up. When a decrease in strength, progression of a disease or other problems like arthritis are present, people can no longer carry out all the things they need to do. This process can come on slowly, like the woman who found that the arthritis in her knees made walking up the stairs painful, so she had not been upstairs in over a year.
The old saying ”necessity is the mother of invention” is never more true than when you’re dealing with clever seniors we’re trying to figure out how to take care of themselves. The problem often is that the solutions that they have found may be unsafe. For example, one elderly woman with significant eye problems had thought that as long as she drove the same route in the middle of the day that she was safe, even though the family strongly disagreed. Or another senior care management client who had chronic fatigue who would make one large meal on Sunday and continue to eat it through the entire week, despite the fact that she had a refrigerator that barely worked, and she admitted that it was kind of going bad by Saturday.
The problem in many of these cases is that the senior involved and their family and loved ones see the risks very differently. “Oh, it’s not that bad” is the general response of the senior when questioned. It’s probably going to be a failing effort to convince them that what they are doing is dangerous. What you can do is explain your concerns and feelings and help them find a better solution.
Get a Clear Picture of Needs.
Sit down with him/her and go over all the tasks that need to be done on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Be specific about chores in the home and yard, meals and nutrition, appointments and hobbies, finances and even grooming.
Look at Your Resources.
Are there family members who can step in to help?
Does your loved one have a helpful neighbor who wouldn’t mind stopping by?
Does your loved one have money to be able to pay for more help?
Physical Safety Measures.
Are there any one-time investments like handrails, adaptive equipment or ramps that would take care of the problem? Often, elders and families are unaware of the great variety of equipment that can help. You can stop by a medical equipment company and talk to one of their representatives as they are a wealth of information on how to overcome specific challenges. Read more tips here.
Another great resource is an occupational therapist. They are specialists at helping overcome problems and challenges that come up with decreasing strength and mobility. To get in an order for an occupational therapist evaluation, talk to your doctor.
When people can’t do those basic activities of daily living that keep them safe and healthy at home, it can be extremely risky to keep them in place. The risk worsens problems aren’t recognized and addressed. It is the unrecognized problems that are the hardest to solve. It’s always best when you’re talking with elders to be compassionate and solve problems together.