Our social worker's phone is often extra busy after the holidays, with people calling up because they observed that a relative has changed since the last time they saw them. For many people, holidays are the only time that they see extended family, and often that may be just once a year. It stands to reason that this is a time to check in to see how your older relatives are doing, and to help them seek out help if they need it. In many cases, there are easy solutions to problems, while others may require larger interventions. If you need help sorting out options, whether they be from needing to find exercise classes, or adult day programs, or help with in-home services or residential placement, don't hesitate to contact Volunteers of America - Minnesota's Southwest Senior Center for assistance. Here are some of the things to be aware of the next time you visit an older relative:
Mobility problems: If your older relative finds it harder to get up from a chair, to move from one room to another, or is worried about his balance, solutions can be as simple as getting your relative to talk with a physical or occupational therapist about assistive devices or getting a lift chair. Or, maybe your relative may just need to join an exercise class so that he can keep limber and fit. If the person no longer drives or uses the bus, our social worker can help him to sign up for Metro Mobility so that he can get door to door rides.
Chores: If the leaves haven't been raked or the snow shoveled, or the house tidied, your relative may not be able to do it any longer. There are good resources in the community that can help provide chore services. If you can't be there to help, you can make sure she knows who to call.
Memory: While it may be hard to remember a long list of great grand children's names, if mom or dad are constantly asking the same question and forgetting people's names that they use often, this is a good clue that something is going on. Memory loss is sometimes attributable to medication or to physical problems, but it is important to diagnose the cause so that if it is necessary, your loved one can work with a doctor to assess options and have time to put her finances and other matters in order. Caregivers may need additional support and respite from helping someone with dementia.
Housing: While many people can stay in their own homes for a long time with proper support, sometimes larger homes with lots of stairs and no bedroom or bathroom on the first floor can become impractical. Our social worker can help people sort out housing options.
Solitude/Inactivity: People often find that their social circle shrinks as they age, so it is important for people to have outlets to be social. Southwest Senior Center offers many activities so that seniors can meet each other and remain active. Exercise classes, senior dining, volunteering, educational and cultural programs, and our adult day program all offer opportunities to meet new people.
Driving: If you notice that your older relative's car is sporting more scrapes and dents than last year, or if your relative can't remember how to get home from common destinations, or your relative's sight has severely diminished, it may be time to think about whether it is safe for that person to drive. This is always a very difficult family discussion, but there are resources available to provide an impartial assessment of a driver's ability to operate a vehicle safely.
For the most part, getting together with older relatives is generally just a great time to renew family ties and bring the generations together. It's fun to relive old stories and make new family memories. But, if you think your older relative can benefit from some information about programs and services available in the community, please don't hesitate to contact the Center. For social work and caregiver services, contact Linda Walker, social worker, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-822-3194. For general program information, contact Mary Ann Schoenberger, Center Director, at email@example.com or 612-822-3194.Southwest Senior Center offers a wide variety of programs, services and volunteer opportunties that support the health and independence of adults age 50 and up. The Center is located at 3612 Bryant Avenue S.