It isn’t unusual for adult children to worry about their parents’ mobility. Falls are extremely common among frail older adults, and the dangers can be significant. Or perhaps your parent has dementia and wanders. Private care offers many services that can allay your fears and keep your parent safe and out of harm’s way.
A care manager or physical therapist can conduct an assessment of your parent’s home for safety risks, and can suggest modifications.
Home health aides can accompany your parent to appointments or on errands, can monitor your loved one for fatigue, and can ensure safety by making sure appropriate footwear is worn and that any equipment is used correctly and is in good working order. An aide can also remind your parent to perform exercises that can help with recovery.
As anyone with a parent or loved one who has dementia knows, the prospect of that person becoming disoriented and wandering away is always real and pressing concern. The Alzheimer’s Association says that more than 60 percent of those with Alzheimer’s and related dementias will wander at some point.
The most comprehensive way to ensure your family member’s safety is through supervision. If it’s impossible or unrealistic for you to provide this yourself, companionship services from a home care agency offer reassurance and peace of mind. A home health aide’s primary role is to see to your family member’s needs, ensuring safety and engagement as well as comfort.
Restlessness is one of the most common triggers for wandering. Home health aides can keep your loved one active and engaged, provide social stimulation appropriate to your loved one’s cognitive abilities, and can assist with exercise or physical activity. For example, an aide can accompany your loved one on walks, “directing” the wandering to a safe place—and ensuring your loved one doesn’t fall, get lost, or become fatigued.
And if your parent wanders during the night, a home health aide during the day might relieve this, too. As your loved one is occupied with activities, he or she may nap less during the day, and the activity may induce enough fatigue to help them sleep more soundly at night.
Other reasons for wandering include wanting to go “home”—which may be to a childhood home; needing to fulfill an obligation, such as going to work or picking up children; or feelings of agitation, worry, or fear and needing to get to safety. Home health aides are trained in dealing with this confusion and can redirect or distract your loved one respectfully and calmly in these cases.
Simple change to your family member’s home, such as slide locks at the top or bottom of a door, or childproof doorknob covers, can make it too difficult for your loved one to leave home when disoriented. Some alarm systems have motion sensors that can let you know when the front door has been opened. Pressure-sensitive alarms in pads under area rugs or doormats can alert you when your parent gets out of bed or gets up from a favorite chair, or is by a door. GPS footwear can also alert you to your loved one’s whereabouts.
Enroll in a program like Medic Alert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return. This program provides 24-hour support for locating a missing person, and for medical emergencies. For information or to find out how to enroll, visit their website.