Help for seniors that are left alone in cities without family to care for them. Ideas and tips by francy Dickinson
Dear Francy; My Grandmother and Aunt live in my old home town- two states away from me. I have a family of my own and very little time or money to spend on their care. They do not live together but they talk each day. I am getting very worried about their welfare. Their homes need help, their gardens need help and they need help. Both are in their early 80’s and are able to be on their own, but they need an extra eye to look over them. Ideas?
YES! This is a subject that I am asked so often. It’s so hard on family these days with all the travel we do, the jobs and families that we have established away from our old home towns. I understand the worry, I understand your fears and I have a few ideas to help.
- Try to plan a trip back home once a year or every other year. Do not go home at holiday time…do it in the spring or fall, when life is not so busy. That will allow you to really spend a few days with your older relatives and get a feeling for their health and ability for self-care.
- If you can not go than ask a relative or old friend from your home town to do a security check. You can reconnect with a highschool chum that would stop in once a month and you send her a thank you note with a Starbucks card inside. Be creative; older folks tend to say; “I’m just fine” when they are not just fine.
- Get the legal stuff out-of-the-way right from the get go. You need a power of attorney for health issues and they can have each of their names on the POA as back up. That way if they’re in trouble you can call long distance to the hospital and get information. The world and laws have changed, privacy means, NO information will be given out without permission of the patient. If the patient is unable to give permission…you are stuck.
- Make sure even if you are far away you can call and talk without worry. Add a MagicJack to your computer. That will give you unlimited long distance through the Internet for $25 a year. That way there is no worry about multi calls each day or long calls to them or others in the town to make appointments.
- Add them both to your family cell phone plan. They will not use many minutes and its a safe way for them to call 911. If you are all on the same cell phone company then your calls to each other are usually free. So they can talk to each other and to you and no minutes show on your billing. Call your service and ask them what a good plan would be for all of you, then make the change. Keep updating your cell services, some companies have special senior plans and it really helps to have that phone in their pocket ( or in their bra- LOL) all day long so they are secure in case of a fall.
- Think like you would if you were close. Call their doctor and make appointments, they do not care where you live. You make the appointments and keep up with the information as it comes up. If you have lived well into your 80’s and you have low health issues, then keeping life simple and having check ups is the way to keep your seniors living on their own for an extended time. Every year they need to see eye, skin, family doctor, and any specialist that they need for their extra care. Don’t forget teeth, they will start to eat less if they have teeth that are missing or hurt.
- If they begin to have health issues; ask them if they would consider living together. They could both sell their homes and put the money in a fund. Then move in together in a retirement situation that would provide care as they age. They would have a community around them and be more involved in their lives – instead of alone.
- If they want to be where they are for as long as they can….start to set up a group of people who will help them. Get a listing of repair people from the community colleges and tech schools that are inexpensive and help seniors. Get yard people from garden clubs or faith organizations that do a yearly clean up for free.
- Add on a care service or hire an occasional cleaning person. Even once a month, or every other month. Add a bath person once a week this is really a good way to check their health. The bath person is trained to see if they are losing weight, have bruises from falls, or other medical complaints. I think this should be #1 on your list.
- Connect with someone who will pick them up once a week and take them both to the grocery store, get their hair done, and get a pedicure (every 5 wks). They can visit together get a lunch after the shopping and have an enjoyable day. Someone from a faith center will do the job if you simply give a gift to the program. Be creative.
- Food, if they need help with food then do the local ‘Meals on Wheels’ they will send out food for the week and little treats can be purchased on the side. Do not allow them to go one day without a protein drink. This drink can be covered on their health program if you ask the doctor to give them a prescription for it. Boost and other protein drinks give them vitamins and protein that they may not get each day with small or unbalanced meals.
- Call the local Senior Center and get them on their mailing list…get them involved with day trips to local sites, card days, lite exercise, movie nites. Senior Centers have lots of extra services and so do the YMCA’s in the area. Tech college that are training in-home care givers also can send students for safety checks and so can the local Red Cross and Senior Care Services.
- Professional in home services can be done by the hour and you can get a review of what is needed when you call a Senior Care Service in the area. I always find them online and check out the references. These services are varied like bath people, cleaning, food prep, care giving and nursing. You can figure out the amount of money you have in the budget and use them each week or only on occasion. Its good just to talk to them and have an evaluation so they are ready to go when you are in need. Remember Medicare will pay for one month of in-home care after a patient has been in hospital for three days or more. Or Medicare will provide a 30 day stay in a care center to recover from a hospital stay before the senior returns to their own home. Your insurance and local senior services will review what your area covers for in-home care so call and get the idea in your mind and written down, in case you need it.
- If you feel they are in need of help financially..with food or other things you need a social worker. The best place to begin is with a trained person that is there for you…you can call the local hospital that is close to them. Ask for the senior social worker and start with that person. They are always in the know and it is a hospital community outreach to help the public.
It will require you to make calls and get your lists ready to go, but once you do. It will be like you are living right next door. Do not depend on relatives, they often say they will do things and then do not follow through. It’s better to have a service help you, pay for it if your seniors have money and/or search for local charity services if you don’t have funds. Once again, the key word is being creative. Think about how you can ask others to help you to give your seniors the best care…even if you are not able to be there for hands on help.
Thank you for being so kind to your seniors. Many elders find their lives closed in to just their own home. They lose their spouses, friends pass, children are out-of-town and who do they have to help them? So good to know that you care enough to be on the other end of the phone. Blessings, francy