Caregiver, Is Your Parent Home Alone? 8 Keys to Keep Them Safe and Sound

July 1, 2009 at 4:50 pm Leave a comment

Remember that great movie Home Alone? Macaulay Culkin played this cute, ingenious kid who found all sorts of interesting (dangerous and funny) things to do when he was left behind and found himself alone in the house for the week. It’s cute when it’s a blockbuster movie, it’s less cute when it’s your parent that you’re worried about–suddenly dangerous and funny takes on a new meaning.

Yet many family caregivers have little choice. They may have to work. They have to pay their mortgage, they need the health insurance benefits, and even for the simple reason that they need to get out and react with the outside world. Yet, many many elders are left alone–for hours on end.

There are lots of issues: safety of course, is number one. Lots of things can happen. Falls lead the list, but I’m sure you have your own horror movie playing inside your head as you sit at work and hope everything’s all right. There’s also boredom, break-ins, wandering, and hoping they take their meds, drink water, and don’t get hooked on QVC and wind up buying thousands Sham-Wows while you’re at slaving away trying to afford gas and groceries.

8 Keys to Keeping Your “Home Alone” Loved One Safe and Sound:

  • Webcam. If you work at a computer, consider installing a webcam in your home–in a central room. Put door locks on rooms you don’t want them to go into and let them know they’re on camera, but this could give you the peace of mind that your loved one hasn’t fallen–or slipped out the back door.
  • Call regularly, but know that it’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes you’ll get 15 calls an hour–so you have to learn how to control this and not give into every dramatic excuse that comes along. But do call when you say you will.
  • Pay a neighbor to check on them. If it’s summer, pay a pre-teen to bring in the mail, sweep the porch, or some other “excuse” to check on your elder–and then give you a quick call to let you know everything’s all right. Even a 15 minute visit is worth 5 dollars a day–and who knows, a friendship might even blossom.
  • Consider starting or finding an elder co-op. Go to a local caregiving support group and see if there’s another person who lives nearby who is staying home with their loved one. You might be able to get the two together for a weekly visit–or he/she might be willing to take your mom or dad to the store when they go.
  • Consider Meals on Wheels. This great organization does more than deliver lasagna. They take the time to chat a few minutes and do a quick assessment. Even if your elder says they don’t want it, tell them you do. These services are often free or very inexpensive–and it’s another friendly face your loved one can look forward to.
  • Plan phone calls and visits from others. Does your dad or mom have relatives in other cities? Could you get them on a regular calling schedule? Will your church volunteer service do a monthly visit? Every little bit helps.
  • Ask your work for flex hours. You know the old Biblical saying, “Ask and Ye Shall Receive?” You might be able to finish a report at home, or work one day a week from home. It doesn’t hurt to ask. If you’ve been a valued employee, then they know that you will accomplish your work goals no matter your location.
  • Utilize those community resources. Most areas have a senior van service that will take your loved one to a local adult day care or to local doctors or stores. Check with your Council on Aging or other local senior community centers will have information on what’s available in your area.

Boredom is often a problem. We get in trouble when we’re bored–whether we’re 2 years old or 92. My mother may have had Alzheimer’s, but I could see that she still needed structure–and something to look forward to. Each day needs to offer something slightly different. Perhaps a housekeeper comes on Tuesday, the van takes your mom shopping on Wednesday, and your mom goes to adult day-care on Thursdays because that’s Bingo day.

All of us need friends and activities. Consider yourself your parent’s social secretary and enjoy the role. It’s so worth it when you return from a day at work and they’re smiling and have “news” to tell you about their day.

Being home alone isn’t the same as being lonely at home.

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving. Tags: , , , .

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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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