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Building a Safety Net for Your Aging Parents

Osteoporosis Canada and the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Chapter of the Alzheimer Society both ran a longer version of the excerpt below in one of their 2012 newsletters.  The passage is from the chapter called "Elder Proofing to Reduce Preventable Crises" in my book, Doris Inc.  I think it is an important message for current and future family caregivers that can save them tremendous anxiety and regret.

"What would happen if your aging parent fell down a flight of stairs and was knocked unconscious, or had a stroke when they were alone in their house?  How would your mother or father get emergency help?  How would you feel if you couldn't reach your parent several times on a day when you expected them to be home?  Where would you turn for help to determine if they were in danger?

Having a safety net in place for seniors before a life-threatening emergency occurs ensures that they have immediate access to medical attention, which can prevent catastrophes, such as a person not being found for days.  A safety net reduces complications by getting them the help they need quickly, while at the same time providing peace of mind to all family members."

"Seniors also need ready access to assistance when they have questions or concerns, or are unable to handle a problem on their own.  Finding a neighbor to do odd jobs around the house, such as replacing a light bulb in a ceiling light fixture, can prevent a fall and injury, which is especially important when a senior lives alone." (1)

The following list provides more practical tips to create a safety net for your parents:

  • Install a 24-hour a day personal emergency-response system.
  • Arrange regular checks by phone or in person by family, friends and neighbours.
  • Give house keys to trusted neighbours.
  • Buy a phone specially designed for declining vision and hearing abilities.
  • Buy a cordless phone that can be taken outside to prevent running for the phone indoors.
  • Compile a phone directory in large print of the important people and organizations in your parents' lives.
  • Arrange for a MedicAlert bracelet if a senior has allergies or a medical condition that puts them at risk in an emergency.

Putting a safety net in place is the first important step to creating a safe home environment for your parents.  I will cover other ways to create a safe home environment in subsequent blog posts.

1. Roberts, Shirley. (2012). Doris Inc.: A Business Approach to Caring for your Elderly Parents. John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd.: 112. Print. Included with permission of the publisher.

Shirley Roberts was the primary caregiver of her mother for seven years and is the author of Doris Inc.: A Business Approach to Caring for Your Elderly Parents.

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