It can be difficult to see your senior loved ones as often as you’d like.
Life, kids, work, and other obligations get in the way, making it tricky to spend as much time as you’d like with your aging family members.
What’s more, many adults live far enough away from their families that visiting every day or every week simply isn’t feasible. In fact, studies show that about 5-7 million Americans act as long distance caregivers, and live an average of 450 miles away from the older adults they support and care for.
When you do get the chance to visit your aging loved one, it helps to really make the most of your time together. Spending some time with your senior relative provides a great opportunity to catch up and reconnect. And while you’re together, paying a visit to an elderly family member is a great time to check up on them, and see how they’re doing – emotionally, physically, and socially.
If it helps, you may want to think of this regular “check-in” or “check-up” as a sort of wellness visit, a phrase that comes from Medicare.
Getting Inspired By the Medicare Wellness Visit
You see, Medicare Part B beneficiaries, as part of their coverage, get a free yearly “wellness visit” with their primary care physician, in order to “develop or update a personalized prevention plan,” as Medicare.gov explains. As a concept, it’s very similar to the yearly physical or check-up that most of us get throughout our lives.
As part of this annual wellness visit, adults over 65 get the chance to sit down with their doctor and explore a number of different, important subjects. In broad strokes, this visit is designed to help check in on the Medicare recipient’s overall health, and prepare them for the future.
As part of their visit, the patient and their doctor will complete or update a “Health Risk Assessment,” which includes questions and exams pertaining to:
- Medical history
- Family history
- Routine measurements (height, weight, blood pressure)
- Checking for cognitive impairment or decline
- Creating a screening schedule for preventive care services
- Taking steps to start with advance care planning
After their annual wellness visit, the Medicare recipient should be able to move forward with more confidence, having checked in on their current health status, and taken some important steps to prepare for the months and years ahead.
This is an extremely personalized visit, designed to help figure out what the patient may want or need, and start devising the best possible strategy to help them achieve their health goals.
Now, what if you took those same principles into the everyday?
Applying the Principles of the Wellness Visit at Home
Visiting your older parent or loved one, particularly if you don’t see them often, is a great chance to perform an informal wellness visit of your own – to check in on your loved one’s health, note any changes that may have taken place since you last saw them, and start having important discussions about the future.
We’re not saying you should try to be as probing or thorough as a trained medical professional – nor should you be expected to achieve the same results that a senior may get from a formal Medicare wellness visit. However, keep an eye and an ear open, and you may take note of things that could benefit your senior loved one in the long-term.
For example? If you haven’t visited your loved one in some time, you may notice changes to their appearance, hygiene, or grooming that are striking. They could be dressing poorly, or may have given up on brushing their hair, taking care of their teeth, or bathing. Or your loved one may have rapidly lost weight, or suffered an injury that they did not tell you about. They could be moving differently – walking more slowly, holding onto furniture for support, limping, sitting and standing extremely gingerly.
You may notice that their home environment has fallen into disarray. This could mean stacks of clutter gathering everywhere, including mail and newspapers. It could mean that your loved one has stopped gardening, doing the laundry, or taking care of their houseplants. They may have foregone dusting and organizing, allowed food to spoil in the fridge, let light bulbs burn out, or stopped cleaning up after their pet.
Another thing to look for: Does your older loved one seem isolated or socially withdrawn? Do they look for excuses not to go out and do things? Do they seem to have company or social commitments, or do they spend all of their time alone? Does it seem like they have lost interest in hobbies or activities that they used to enjoy?
And finally, you may notice some striking or subtle mental and behavioral changes, especially if it has been awhile since you last saw or spoke to your senior family member. Are they exhibiting memory lapses, or trouble speaking or communicating? Do they go through rapid mood swings? Have they started to get lost more frequently, or lose their way even in familiar settings?
All of the above could be signs that it’s time to start seeking additional help and support for your aging loved one. For many families, especially those led by a family caregiver who lives far away, or has many other commitments and obligations to manage, one of the best courses of action may be to bring on a professional companion or caregiver, on a full- or part-time basis.
An experienced professional caregiver can help give your loved one the support and attention they need, empowering them to live safely, comfortably, and independently at home. A caregiver can help assist older adults with activities of daily living, such as sitting and standing, grooming, and doing chores around the house. Many companions can also provide transportation services and support; at the same time, your loved one may benefit from simply having a friendly face who’s there to share meals, play games, or swap stories.
About Companions for Seniors
If you see dramatic changes or worrying signs from your aging loved ones, then it may be time to consider your options for providing help. This can be a tough conversation to have, and it may end up involving many different parties – ranging from other family members to your parent’s healthcare providers.
Fortunately, there are many options out there to help your elderly loved ones to age in place.
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.
Our companions are trained, bonded, and insured, and can help provide a variety of services designed to help your loved one remain in the comfort of their own home.
Have any more questions? Interested in seeing what sets our care services apart? Give us a call at 866-910-9020 or drop us a line to get the conversation started.