Caring for Your Loved Ones

Hello! Welcome to our blog. I am Shawn Franklin, Senior Vice President of Northern Operations. If you want to learn more about me or my background, take a moment to look at “Our Team” page under “About”. My biography is out there. We are going to spend some time looking at many different topics that revolve around caring for your loved ones both in the home and in other community settings.

As we look around our communities both locally and state wide, we see that we are an aging population. Billboards, television commercials, and even a trip to the grocery store constantly bring this to our attention. This is a sign of our area’s rich history. It is also a sign that we have difficult decisions to make for our loved ones as they are going through the aging process. As we or our families are aging we are faced with a multitude of decisions.

Individuals and families often feel overwhelmed with the decision about how to proceed and help aging loved ones. That feeling can lead to not making decisions or delaying a decision until there is a crisis situation. Neither of these options are ideal. At Spectrum Health Companies, we see this every day. I would like to discuss some of the things we have found helpful in working with families to determine the best course of action for loved ones in need of care in one form or another.

First off, it is very important to remember there are options and there is not a one size fits all solution. We are blessed to have many providers of care that can meet the needs of our loved ones. These providers supply everything from Meals-on-Wheels, Groceries to Go, skilled medical home care, non-medical home care, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing facilities. There are many options and often it is a blending of these options that may be the best solution for your loved ones. The next thing to consider is where to begin. It is key to look at the situation and determine first what are the pressing needs?

A few questions to ask to determine this would be the following:

  • Are they safe in their current living situation?
  • Are they managing their medications and care well?
  • Are they able to maintain their independence?
  • What can be done to help them maintain their independence and ensure their needs are being met?
  • Are they lonely?
  • Are they vulnerable on their own?
  • Are they happy, or as happy as they have ever been?

We will discuss these questions a little more in depth through our next few blog posts. The first question is the most important. Is your loved one safe in their current environment? There are a few simple things that can be done in the physical home that will greatly improve the safety of our loved ones. These simple things can make a huge difference. If there has been a history of falls or tumbles for your loved one, it may be good to evaluate the environment of their home. Are there throw rugs that are a hazard? Is there adequate lighting to ensure steps and pathways are easily maneuvered? Is there clutter that is posing a hazard in a walkway? Would a few grab bars in the bathroom or by the shower provide a safe solution? Often times after a fall a doctor may order Physical Therapy through home care. A physical therapist can help evaluate a home to see what environmental changes can be put into place if a family feels inadequate to make those decisions.

Beyond the physical home, it is important to look at the mental and emotional well-being of a family member to determine if they are safely able to manage their cares and medications. As we age the medical needs we have and medications we take are more complicated. Is your loved one able to order, set up and take their medications safely? Often, we find spouses and family members are a help to each other in this regard. This is a wonderful solution if family is available to assist in this way. Medication management is vital to the health and well-being of an individual. One of the main reasons elderly individuals are admitted to a hospital is due to medication errors. If family is not available to help in this manner, there are many solutions that can be put into place to assist with these needs. Homecare nurses are able to set up medications for an individual and work with a physician to help manage the refills and ordering of medications. There are medication dispensers that are available to dispense and provide reminders for someone who may be able to take their medications safely with a reminder. Having something like that in place can ease fears about taking medications on time which would provide a higher quality of life and ease the burden for caring for loved ones.

Staying independent is a very important need for anyone. Sometimes being independent at home is successful and things go well. Sometimes there comes a point where staying at home alone may not be the best situation. If a loved one is fearful of being alone or having difficulty with their day to day routine, it may be time to start looking at some of your other options. These options can meet the needs of a loved one who may not be safe to be alone all the time but are still mostly independent. Many people choose to move into an apartment or assisted living community. When someone no longer has the need to mow grass or shovel snow and worry about home maintenance, it can help eliminate anxiety around being alone with the cares of a home. It also can give them the freedom to come and go as they please without worrying about the day to day chores.

Our next blog post will look at the option of assisted living and how it unexpectedly helps create independence for our loved ones. If you have any questions please reach out to us and we will be happy to walk through any questions you may have regarding your loved ones and how to care safely for them.