When mom and dad need special help

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One of our families’ seniors is coming home after rehabilitation, has suffered a medical condition that has affected lifestyle and/or mobility or has reached a point where those around the senior think that his or her safety is at risk. It is a difficult time for a family and requires that everyone play a role and pitch in.
In years past, the choices when this occurred were few. Many parents/seniors moved in with family and that often worked. However, with the dynamics of family changing, mobility and many career concerns, it is likely that this isn’t the best alternative for more than a short visit.  Others elect long-term care in a skilled care or assisted living centers
With more seniors in our population (and this number is continuing to grow significantly), new alternatives in senior care have emerged that provide a number of options. These can serve as a “bridge” or can be long-term solutions. Some of the alternatives include:
Companion care – There is a period of time when the services of a health care professional in the home isn’t required and the senior isn’t ready for long-term care. That is where companion services come into play as an excellent alternative. Companions come into a person’s home several days or more each week for a few hours at a scheduled time to help with simple household chores, remind about medications, and perhaps help with meal prep. Above all, it is an opportunity to bond and provide companionship and communication.
Before hiring any companion to come into the home, it is critical that you research the provider firm and be certain that every companion is fully vetted, including background checks, references, experience review, criminal check.  Some people hire people who have ads in the paper. This is very dangerous and the horror stories are many.
The initial review process usually includes an intake meeting with the senior(s) and a family member to better understand the needs and to walk-through the home. Then a companion is brought to meet the person needing the care to be sure they are compatible. A schedule is established, and the support begins. Very simply, very effective and truly providing a peace of mind.  Visit www.homeconnectioncompanions for more information.
Senior support – I didn’t want to use the word monitoring, because it isn’t. Families are dispersed through the nation and often the children are in another region and cannot see mom, dad or other senior as frequently as they would like. This can cause angst and, yes, some guilt. Programs to “check-in” with a senior each day or a few times a week are proving to be very effective in keeping communication alive, maintaining a connection and assuring that a senior is okay. Calling-To-Check (www.callingtocheck.com) is an excellent example of such a program. At a scheduled time, a trained Comfort Caller places a call to a senior to check in. If something is amiss, they have a protocol to follow to alert the designated family member by phone, email and/or text.  The conversation can be enjoyable and create a connection between the senior and caller. The service is very reasonable, as well.
Adaptive technology for seniors – With seniors as a growing technology market, innovative adaptive technologies have been introduced to help seniors be independent. Some technologies include:
• Personal emergency response system – This is almost an imperative. At the simple push of a button, emergency responders can be on the way to a person in need at home. The key is to be sure that your senior wears the neck chain, or better yet, the wristband button.
• GPS tracking – The Alzheimer’s wanderer always is a concern. New technology can monitor those prone to wandering and will send alerts to responsible family members.
• Web-based exercise programs and communication programs– Keeping the mind and body stimulated is critical to long-term health. Streaming video and other applications can bring this into the home.  In addition, maintaining contact with friends and family through social media, email, Skype and other internet-based tools brings someone right into your living room.
• Medication management – With age comes more prescriptions and sometimes that pillbox isn’t enough. There are Smartphone apps that send medication reminders, which have been proven to significantly reduce missed or errors in medications.
• Health tracking – Keeping track of all the medical information can be a daunting task. New apps and cloud-based health information tracking systems can help seniors monitor medical history, medical contacts, medications and more.
Village-to-village programs – This is a new concept, just being developed in communities across the country. Based upon very successful programs in Brooklyn and Boston, the village concept is community-based and provides services to seniors, such as transportation, companionship, home repair (using discounted contractors) and support. In New York State, the Town of Rhinebeck has an operating village program.
Largely staffed by volunteers, a village is a non-profit entity organized under a national program, www.vtvnetwork.org.  There are about 120 villages operating in the U.S, Australia and the Netherlands with another 150 planned. In the Capital Region, the Town of Colonie and Schenectady have similar programs in place to support their senior communities.
When it is your responsibility to help a senior in need, lean on others for help, embrace technology and rid yourself of the guilt if you cannot be there. Others can!

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