The most effective way to manage the challenges of eldercare is to have an accurate picture of what the needs are. This checklist can provide a basis for a “what if” conversation with an aging parent, or at least an early warning that issues may need to be addressed in the not too distant future. Some things to review include:
- Mental Status — Is your relative having problems with memory or decision-making? For an accurate diagnosis, a neurologist should be consulted.
- Mobility — Is the person unsteady when walking? Does she have difficulty getting in and out of a chair or the bed? Many emergency room and hospital visits are a result of an accident in the home.
- Home Safety — Does the home present any danger of falls? Are there safety features in the bathroom (grab bars; shower bench)? Consider contacting someone about a home safety assessment!
- Nutrition — Is there adequate food in the house? Is it properly stored? Is the food in the refrigerator fresh? How does the shopping get done? Do the appliances work properly? Does the person’s health status or stamina make meal preparation difficult?
- Medications — Is there a good system for managing the medications? Does the person clearly understand the purpose for each of the medicines? Is there any confusion about how and when the pills should be taken (with meals/before meals)? Are any of the pills expired? Does remembering to take medications present problems? Are there any unpleasant side effects?
- Driving — If the person is still driving, is he a competent driver? Is there a way to arrange some errands with him behind the wheel to see how things are going? If the person’s driving presents a risk, consider having his driving evaluated.
- Isolation — How much contact does your parent have with others? Is there someone who interacts with her on a regular basis? Is there someone available who is willing to “check in” regularly to monitor how things are going?
- Bill paying — Is dad still capable of managing his financial affairs? Have the bills been paid in a timely way? Would an automated payment option be a possibility?
- Cash Flow — Is managing money a problem? Is mom at risk of financial abuse? Should access to finances be restricted to limit potential exploitation?
- Legal Paperwork — Is there a will or trust? Are Durable Powers of Attorney completed? Are you designated as agent or surrogate decision maker? Where are those documents kept?
This checklist will come in handy when you have to assess the needs of your parent or older relative.