Protecting Elders by francy Dickinson
Dear Francy: This is my own family story. In the 1970’s my Aunt was baby-sitting her two grandchildren. They stayed overnight and she made them lunches and drove them to their elementary school, the next morning. She was never seen alive again. One year later her car was found off an old logging road and her remains found deep in the woods. She had somehow gotten confused and lost. How could that happen? Did her children miss seeing that she was getting older and more stressful and having children over-night was just a step too far? Or did she have a sudden attack of dementia? Did no one notice any warning signs? We were all heart sick. She was a dear lady and did not deserve that life-ending no matter what had happened.
8 TIPS TO HELP KEEP YOUR SENIOR ~SAFE
- Take note of sudden change in personality. Example; if a person was shy and they now just push their needs onto everyone. Or, if they were chatty and now are very quiet. Change in personal moods are important and you need to write a few notes of examples and give it to the doctor’s office check-in person and ask them to “attach your letter” to the chart. That way the doctor will read it and take note of its significance.
- Constant anger over small things. If you are losing power in your body or mind it is frightening. You want to be in charge of your mind…so you automatically push yourself to be right. You make your point, you debate, you push and push until others do what you feel is right. That is what “taking power back” is all about. But this is also a sign that there is something going on in that mind and needs to be checked. A memory test, a talk about early signs of dementia or other mental issues. Ask your health care team to schedule a memory test for the elder and make sure you are all on the same page.
- Your elder has slight memory problems but they speak well and still drive. They do chores around the house and they “seem” OK. Yes, they are slowing down and Yes, their projects take longer to finish than they used to…but you do not see any danger in them staying independent. Next thing you know; your dad is taking a left turn. His driving timing is off and he turns right into my car, while I was driving in the opposite direction. Head on crash.
I was really hurt, when that happened to me. The lady that did that to me had Parkinson’s. She told me she was on medication…as I limped around and checked on a young man with children in the other car she had hit…she was shaking and very upset. Now, I was kind to her…but it upset me that her husband (that came to the scene to bring her home) just protected her. He was telling her not to worry, they had another car at home for her to drive!!! Hello, do not tell yourself lies. If someone is suffering from high pressure of life changes, taking medications that are strong or are mentally confused…they cannot drive. You can write a letter to the driver’s department and tell them to demand that she takes another test to keep her driver’s license. Or, you can make sure no car is available for them to use. Period, subject closed. It is not fair to others and I could have lost my life. My injuries were very upsetting, because I had my Georgie at home, to care for at that time.
- Post Alerts in the house. If you worry about dad out in the garage, or mom walking out the front door…take note of new helper tools. There are cameras that can be put on the door bell or inside of the house. There are alarms that ring loudly when a door opens so you can dash to the door and way-lay the elder back to the living room. There are so many things that are new and exciting that I ask you to simply talk to the techie in your family to help you find just what you need.
- Can someone help your elder if they are upset or confused? OK, so George would have a drop in mental ability when he was under pressure so I knew I had to get him an ID bracelet early on. Just in case he was to walk away from me in a store or while I was gardening. If someone stopped him…would he know my phone number or my name under pressure? So, I looked and the ID’s were so expensive. Now that has changed. You can get a locator on their own cell phone…or on their fit watch. Tech stuff has really done well for all of us seniors…look it up on the Internet. I got a simple RoadIDTag that was very inexpensive and has room for their name, your name and phone number – plus I ordered a health tag and added dementia to a line. Go, take a look…get one for yourself, this stuff is important!
- When you send your elder to another member of the family…tell them the rules. This happened to me: George had his kids in California. They sent him a plane ticket to come and visit and although he had early dementia, he had showed no signs of getting lost. So, off he went. While there he borrowed a truck to drive while his son was off at work. He drove the truck into town and then got lost. He was clear enough to call his daughter and she came right away to get him and have him follow her home. But it was an eye opener for me, when I had lost my Aunt so long ago. And he was so upset he never drove again.
I then made sure where ever George went with friends or family…I gave them the “keep him close” talk. Then off he went with two old friends to a Mariner’s game. They had a great time, then he went to the bathroom and never came back. They went into a panic and took most of the ballgame to search for him in the huge ballpark facility. So, that was the end of going away without me telling the person about the need to keep him close. Not to mention; it was really me deciding he could only go if I was with him…because I’m a ninny. But it never happened again. That was long before Silver Alert system…and tech locators. Be smart…be ready…plan ahead. There are so many choices available now…go do home work to be prepared.
- Stress can really take a toll on anyone, with or without dementia. So if your elder is under stress keep an extra strong eye on their behavior. Do they have to move? Have they lost a dear friend or loving anipal? Have they taken a fall? Have they started a new medication? Have they had a small procedure like cataract removal, or colon cleaning? If so, be sure you spend time with them. Call them a few times a day, bring them into your home for a short stay…allow them to calm down and get their normal daily routine back into place. If you ignore it all…if you think, its no big deal – YOU ARE WRONG. Stress will pull many elders into a semi-dementia state or a lightly confused state. They could take a fall, take medication incorrectly, get very depressed and send them into other health issues. You have to do some planning and take note of the changes. Share change with health care team and let them inform you of things to look for to give them protected caring.
I went through a horrible time after I moved from my long time home. Dear friends took me into their home and kept me safe while I calmed down, got feeling stronger, recovered from my grief and was ready to go forward. I was blessed with their kindness. So age is not a barrier from high emotional stress. I needed to be cared for…does your senior need that extra care?
- A big fall, a bad burn, the flu, heavy cough, bad allergy season, over doing resulting in sore limbs or excitement over a positive or negative event or visit. All of this can actually take brain cells away from a person. You have a stress kill of brain cells and it takes time to build it all back. Now as a young person, you recover from stress or injury quite fast…but as we all age and then go into advanced age we take longer for those brain cells to reproduce. The doctor told me that George would have six months of extra confusion until his brain could grow the cell structure back and perform at a high level with his dementia. He had had pneumonia and was acting strange. The doctor was so right. George’s over-all brain abilities dipped strongly and I was so worried he would not come back…but he did. Just a few months later he was showing signs of recovery in his abilities. If you know something has happened to your elder…then take note. Maybe extra visits to check on them…or bring them into your house on the weekends, or phone checks more often. You might even want your teen to stay with Grandma for a couple of months and check on her. Think it over…be protective and share it with your health care team.
What is a Silver Alert?
A silver alert is a public notification system in the United States to broadcast information about missing persons – especially senior citizens with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other mental disabilities in order to aid in their being found. You can call your local police department and report your senior missing and they decide to issue the Alert. It will go out to cell phones, highway signs, radio and TV station alerts and your senior will able to be quickly located.
Be Honest with yourself and your family and long time neighbors. When George was diagnosed we had our private time to grieve and then we took action. He wrote a beautiful letter to his dear friends thanking them for their friendship and telling them he was slowly going to slide. He talked to his kids and tried to let them understand it might take years, but he would be different from that time forward. I went around our neighborhood and told them that if they saw George walking alone in front of their home to please go out and get him to come home. Face it…you have to be honest to be safe. George lasted a long time in his slide…we knew what was coming. But we celebrated life as much as we could and I kept him safe. Its pointless to be private with dementia…it is not to be ashamed of…its to be honored, as with the elder’s life’s accomplishments.
Thank you for all you do for your senior. You are a blessing in their life and even if no one else is saying “thank you” – hear it from me. You are walking the walk with an elder so they are not alone in their journey…that is a loving act. Blessings, francy