Though it could be a medical condition such as pneumonia, stroke or heart attack that precipitates an emergency run to the ER, there are 3 things that lead the list in causing the ER visit that ends with a change in the living arrangements and circumstances for the senior.
Though many seniors live alone and do quite well, there are 3 things that may be an indicator that more assistance and supervision is required. These issues can lead to a hospital stay and frequently the realization that the senior cannot return home again.
I call these the 3 M’s: Medication, Mobility and Malnutrition.
Medication problems arise when the senior is taking too much medication, too little medication or the wrong combination of medications. Each of these scenarios can lead to problems for the senior. There can be issues related to poorly managed symptoms of chronic health conditions due to not getting the prescribed amounts of medication. Or, a senior that is taking too much medication can become toxic or delirious from the overdose. Drug interactions between medications can also be a factor for many seniors. The risk for medication problems increases if: the senior lives alone, the senior is on more than 3 medications (the average is 13-18!), the senior is seeing more than one doctor (frequently the case), they are using more than one pharmacy, or there are memory issues.
Mobility really becomes a big issue when a senior begins to experience falls. Falls are the leading cause of injury and death in seniors over the age of 65. For those that fall and fracture a hip, about 25% will die within 6 months and 25% will require long term nursing care. Even when a senior is able to return home, they may be dealing with the fear of falling which can limit their ability to keep up with their daily routine. Things to watch for are: balance issues, holding on to furniture when moving about the home, broken furniture or unexplained cuts and bruises.
Malnutrition is a fact for many seniors. They may not be eating well for a number of reasons: little money for groceries, difficulty getting groceries, difficulty cooking and preparing food and/or depression and lack of motivation to cook/eat. Seniors may depend on convenience items, which are loaded with fat and sugar but little nutritional substance, because it is easiest for them. When a senior becomes malnourished, it can lead to weakness (and ultimately falls!) or could cause medication issues (as they lose weight or create absorption problems). Check the refrigerator and the cabinets to get a sense for what is happening.
If you are caring for an elderly parent or loved one, you may want to pay closer attention to these 3 areas. By observing and asking questions, you might reveal an issue that could be corrected before it becomes a problem. There are many ways to help a senior with medication management, mobility issues and assure that they are getting a nutritious, varied diet. Prevention is the key!
Help your senior avoid being one of these statistics. We may not be able to escape all of these scenarios, but if we can prevent some of them, it would be well worth the effort!
On the journey with you…….Kathy
Kathy Eynon is an Eldercare Coach and Consultant that works with those struggling to cope with the demands of caring for an aging parent. She can be reached by email at: Kathy@ParentCareAlliance.com.