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Some elders live in multi-generational households and family is always nearby. Most do not and millions of seniors live far from their families, on their own. Whether widowed or living with a spouse or partner who is also impaired, the aging parent can create incessant worry for their adult children. No one wants to take away a senior’s independence. Aging parents typically resist the idea of moving to be near family or a senior’s community where help may be available as needed. So, the elder who is in many ways at risk remains independent, albeit in a somewhat precarious way.
You may live across the state or across the country from your aging parent. What can you do to ease the worry? You don’t want them to move, and give up all they’re used to unless it’s absolutely the only way to create safety. Consider using more contact and more technology to help you keep tabs on them. Here are some thoughts on this, which will require cooperation from your aging loved one.
- Install security cameras inside the home. For some, there will be strong resistance at this “invasion of privacy”. Yes, it is an invasion in a way, but it could prevent an emergency room visit or an unattended person in trouble for an extended period. Some don’t mind, and some resist. Ask, at least, about their willingness to allow you this monitoring.
- Use pendants, bracelets or watches to monitor for falls. That means the elder in your life will have to agree to wear the device consistently. We know from firsthand experience at AgingParents.com that a lot of elders are provided with these devices and they say they’ll put them on, but they don’t adhere to the plan. When they cooperate, such tech devices can be an excellent help in the event of a fall, as a fall alerts you, and summons emergency personnel.
- Call your aging parent on a schedule every day. Find out how they are doing. It may only take a few minutes, but this is a way to keep track of what your aging loved one is doing and by the sound of their voice, you can sometimes see trouble brewing.
- Make contact with your aging parent’s nearby neighbors and friends. If you can’t be there in person and you’re worried about something you just learned, a local person can visit to check on your loved one. If you have the contact information for someone close by, they can be your eyes and ears, particularly in the event of a crisis. You can learn whether to go in person or if the matter will work out without you traveling to your aging parent.
- Have legal permission to get information from your aging parents’ doctors. With an Advance Healthcare Directive or “HIPAA release” you will be able to contact whatever medical provider the document allows. You can find a HIPAA (Federal privacy requirement) release online if you don’t have an Advance Healthcare Directive for your parent. Your loved one has to designate on the form whom you can contact as needed. They must and sign it and it has to be witnessed or notarized. Keep it and send a copy to any doctor you may need to reach. The primary care physician is a good start.
The bottom line is that total independence in an aging parent likely has an expiration date. We need to be realistic that advanced age in our loved ones can lead to decreased safety. Planning and providing safety measures and monitoring can bring you more peace of mind when you live at a distance from them.