The following is reprinted with permission. I urge you to read it and pass it along. As you make your way home for the holidays here is what to look for during visits to elderly relatives. “Home for the Holidays” What to look for during your annual visit to elderly relatives by Mary Twomey, MSW, Co-Director, University of California, Irvine, Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect.
- Does an elderly loved one require help with chores or housekeeping, personal care, shopping and meal preparation, money management, transportation, medical checkups, or medications?
- Are they isolated or, do they live with others? If living with another, are they dependent on that person for care? Is that person an appropriate caregiver?
- During your visit, keep an eye out for warning signs of self-neglect, or abuse or neglect by others. If, before you make your trip, you suspect that your loved one needs extra assistance, plan a longer stay so that you can visit local aging service organizations during regular work hours. Allow enough time during your visit to accomplish necessary tasks.
- Make the most of your visits by taking some private time with the elder to discuss future planning. Allow time for them to express anxieties. You can decide together what needs to be done and who can help. Be observant while you are visiting. Realize that you may need to arrange a visit to a doctor for a full evaluation.
Remember that 75-90% of elder abuse is committed by family members. DonÛªt let denial become an obstacle to planning that could prevent future emergencies. This is not the time to hide your head in the sand, setting the stage for future regrets. Some warning signs of elder abuse are: Self-Neglect ÛÒ If the senior lives alone and does not have anyone providing assistance, self-neglect may become an issue. Some things to look for include:
Neglect or Abuse by others ÛÒ If the senior lives with others or ostensibly has people helping with care, neglect or abuse may become an issue. Some things to look for include: åáPresence of “new best friend” who is willing to care for the senior for little or no cost. åáRecent change in banking or spending patterns. åáCaregiver isolates older person from friends and family. åáCaregiver has problems with drugs, alcohol, anger management, and emotional instability. åáCaregiver is financially dependent on the older person. åáFamily pet seems neglected or abused. åáYou find an abundance of mail and/or phone solicitations for money (ÛÏYouÛªre our lucky winner!Û). åáåÊSenior seems afraid of the caregiver. åáSenior has unexplained bruises, cuts, etc. åáSenior has ÛÏbed soresÛ (pressure sores from lying in one place for too long). åáSenior appears dirty, undernourished, dehydrated, over- or under-medicated, or is not receiving needed care for problems with eyesight, hearing, dental issues, continence.
What should you do?
- Center of Excellence in Elder Abuse and Neglect: www.centeronelderabuse.org. A program of the University of California Irvine, the CoE conducts research, training, advocacy, and direct services on the issue of elder abuse and neglect.
- Eldercare Locator: Since 1991, the Eldercare Locator, a nationwide toll-free service provided by U.S. Administration on Aging, has helped older adults and their caregivers find local services for seniors. You may visit the website at www.eldercare.gov or speak to an Information Specialist who has access to a database of more than 4,800 entries. The toll-free Eldercare Locator service operates Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Eastern time) and can be reached at 1-800-677-1116.
- AARP: AARP provides caregiving worksheets and tips on ÛÏLong-Distance IssuesÛ http://assets.aarp.org/external_sites/caregiving/planAhead/long_distance_issues.html