As we age, so does our brain and its ability to function as it once did. There are many reasons for cognitive decline, but once it becomes a safety concern for our elderly living alone, you must act. As you know, cognition is a combination of processes in the brain that involves the ability to remember, learn, process, and reason. Cognitive decline can range from mild to severe; both can interfere with daily life. When any of those entities are not working, it becomes a safety concern. When the inability to operate safely in the home, while living alone, the family must intervene. Sadly, the conversation at this point becomes much more difficult, because now the options have diminished and now urgency sets in. Further, our loved ones will fight us tooth and nail to remain in their home. They will tell you they don’t want to be a burden. They will say they are fine. They will rarely acknowledge any problems at all. But while visiting loved ones, you have detected forgetfulness, misplacing things, leaving the stove on, forgetting to lock a door. There are always red flags that give warning signs for the discussion about who will take on the responsibility to safely assume care. You do not want a serious fall or injury to happen before interventions ensue.
Stressing the importance of being PROACTIVE seems to fall on deaf ears. We wait for a situation or circumstance to happen, then we are unprepared to handle it effectively because it becomes required and often overwhelming. Preparing for life’s events is not a new circumstance or conversation. Life’s journey has shown us the practice of preparation. Preparing to care for elderly loved ones may include you moving them into your home, or you moving into theirs.
If you are moving them out of their home, selling property, and taking control of financial and health needs, this is not something that can happen in short order. If moving a loved one from another state, this means new challenges that must be thought through. Family everywhere must know that aging can present many challenges, but most of them can be predicted if paying attention. The importance of being prepared as we age cannot be overstated. Bringing family and friends together to brainstorm must happen. Here are a few recommendations if you find yourself having to make adjustments for your elderly loved one with cognitive decline to keep them safe.
Start a checklist of the top 10 areas that need immediate attention. Start with important documents like government IDs, life insurance policies, power of attorney, and advance directives (attain if not in place). The sale of property required, such as mortgage documents (deeds). Health information includes knowledge of medical diagnoses, medications, dosages, banking information, and sources of income.
As Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, obtaining the necessary documents to move a loved one to a safe place is a part of the caregiving journey. Be safe! Be well!
Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman is a retired registered nurse and case manager; CEO of Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate and author of From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor, and The Black Book of Important Information for Caregivers.