Top 10 Tips for Independent Living

  1. Keep a current medical record for your elderly parents. Summarize all past illnesses, surgeries, hospitalizations and tests. Note any current medical conditions, medications and prescribing physicians. Organize all health insurance cards, Medicare, Medigap, Medicaid and other insurance information. Keep this information on hand for doctor’s visits and emergency situations. And, create a medical history for yourself, as well.

  2. Make a list of all your parents’ doctors, dentists and other medical specialists with their addresses and phone numbers. Add any caregivers, lawyers, therapists, business partners, financial advisors, accountants, bankers, spiritual advisors and insurance agents. Keep all this contact information in one place.

  3. Keep a complete list of medications your parents are taking including prescription drugs, over the counter medications, vitamins, supplements and herbal remedies. Write down the dosages and times of day they are taken and note how the drugs should be taken. Are they taken with food? Should particular activities be avoided such as driving or sunbathing? Note the conditions being treated by each medication along with any possible side effects or allergic reactions. Make a note of the prescribing physician.

  4. Even if your elderly parents are in good health, it is essential to be prepared. Establish a local support network. Make a list of friends, family members and neighbors who live nearby. Determine who can take over as caregiver if you are not available. Jot down the contact information for an organization like Selfhelp, so there are professional caregivers you can call at any time for specialized care and support. Keep names and phone numbers with you and post a copy in an obvious place in your parents’ home, e.g., next to the telephone in the kitchen or bedroom.

    Leave a duplicate copy of house keys along with a summary of important information about your parent’s health with a trusted neighbor or friend. Your loved one will feel more secure when you are not around and you’ll both know someone nearby can take over if there is an emergency.

  5. Use new remote sensor technologies that enable your parents to live on their own without being alone. These systems use unobtrusive, wireless motion sensors that are strategically placed in each part of your parent’s home. Sensors are programmed to learn your parent’s routines and transfer pertinent information to supervisors who are on the lookout for changes in your parents living patterns that might indicate a medical problem or emergency. This new sensor technology is especially helpful if you live far away from your parents and want to know they are safe and protected at all times. Remote sensors are at the heart of Selfhelp’s care management plan and are extremely affordable.

  6. When responsibilities for your aging loved one become overwhelming, consider hiring a Geriatric Care Manager who will help you plan and manage your loved one’s care. At Selfhelp, our Geriatric Care Managers will assess your loved one’s needs, establish a customized care management plan, coordinate all the resources and services that are necessary and monitor the situation on a daily basis. Involving a professional during this challenging time will protect both you and your parent and ensure you that things are under control.

  7. Help your loved ones stay mentally fit by introducing them to puzzles and brain games designed especially for older people. Encourage them to visit with friends or attend the local senior center so they remain as active as possible. When you are together, discuss current events and other topics of interest as a way of keeping your loved one engaged and keeping track of their alertness and well being. Selfhelp’s cognitive stimulation systems can be particularly useful in helping your parents maintain brain fitness.

  8. Be sure your parent has an updated and valid will, a durable power of attorney and advanced directives including a living will and that you know where they are. In the event of a medical crisis or if your loved one is no longer mentally competent, it will be critical to have these documents on hand so their medical care and other matters can proceed according to their wishes.

  9. If you are the primary care giver of your elderly or frail parent, be sure to look after yourself, as well. Periodically, arrange with a friend or relative to take over for a few hours so you can have time off without worrying. Caregiver burnout is a common syndrome and one you can avoid by taking a break and time for yourself. If you are refreshed, you will be more effective in dealing with your loved one.

  10. Even though your loved one reports that he/she is fine, that may not be the whole story. Be aware of warning signs that things may have changed and your loved one needs your help. Some of these are:

    • Loss of appetite, skipped meals, and/or weight loss
    • Personal hygiene is been neglected, particularly teeth, hands and feet
    • Home recently has become messy and/or dirty
    • Behavioral changes such as becoming unusually quiet or loud, agitated, anxious and/or paranoid
    • Behavioral changes that may indicate prescription medications are being taken incorrectly
    • Friends and/or neighbors express concern about changes in daily patterns or behavior
    • Frequent mishaps at home resulting in burns, bruises and abrasions that may indicate physical weakness, sudden carelessness and/or forgetfulness
    • Change in social habits such as dropping regular bridge games or book clubs or visiting with friends
    • Things piling up – unopened mail, unpaid bills, piled up newspapers, unfilled prescriptions and missed appointments and other signs of forgetfulness or disorientation