Winds of Change: Elder Care Tips & Tools

Here on the East Coast, the last few days have been full of blustery spring winds, and it's prompted me to reflect on the new directions emerging in my personal and professional life. Change can be refreshing, like a crisp spring breeze, but it can also make you feel like everything is blowing away, slipping out of your fingers and spiraling on the currents, out of your control and away from your line of vision. 

When you're talking about caring for an older adult, change is inevitable. This month's tips and tools will help you navigate those high winds and periods of calm.

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Here are this month's tips and tools:

  • TIP 1: Write things down. Concerned about changes in health and well-being you're seeing in a loved one? Write them down. You don't have to write a paragraph or even a well-thought out sentence. Just jot down a few words that will trigger your memory of the observation, and note the time and date. These notes will be tremendously helpful when you call the doctor, a long-distance relative or another care team member about your concerns. It will also serve as validation for you: by keeping these records for an extended period of time, you will eventually be able to see a gradual progression or decline, since many health events or care issues don't happen overnight. 
  • TIP 2: Create a changes mantra. If you're feeling particularly stressed or overwhelmed about things spiraling out of control or changing in a way you don't feel ready for, create a saying -- or commit a favorite line of poetry, proverb, or other saying to memory -- that you can repeat out loud or quietly to yourself in moments of anxiety, dread, fear or worry. 
  • TOOL 1: Call the Alzheimer's Association's Toll-free Helpline, 1.800.272.3900. If you're seeing changes that seem to indicate memory loss, talk to someone about it. Get some advice on what to do next. The Helpline is available 24-7 and in 200+ languages and dialects. 
  • TOOL 2: Your family physician. There is no reason to wait for an emergency to call your doctor. Call to schedule an appointment or talk through your concerns with a nurse practitioner or the primary provider to get a better sense of what might be ahead. By taking action ahead of the curve, you may also be preventing an unnecessary care crisis.