visiting parents webSenior Assessment Services Can Help Determine What Help Is Needed
There’s no place like home for the holidays. And there’s no better time to observe parents and other elderly loved ones than when you are home for the holidays. “Having the opportunity to observe your parents in their home while they go about their daily routine can be particularly enlightening, especially if you live a distance away,” says Carrie Fleckenstein, St. Luke’s University Health Networks Senior Network Director, Senior Care Services. “On the telephone, many older adults paint a rosy picture – whether out of pride, a desire not to worry their children, or fear that they will be forced to give up their home. While you’re in the home, however, you can spot signs of struggle.”

Look for changes in behavior or priorities, Carrie says. For example, was your mother always a fastidious housekeeper and now there’s thick dust and dirty towels? Was your father meticulous about the yard and now there’s long grass and weeds? Are there stacks of unpaid bills lying around? Do your parents seem unclear about what medications to take and when to take it?
“You might want to take a ride with your parents to assess driving skills,” she adds. “Also have a conversation. Are they aware of current events? Do they know who the president is?”

If it appears a parent is having difficulty keeping up mentally or physically, seek professional help. For example, St. Luke’s Senior Care Associates offers a senior assessment service that can help diagnose and address problems so your loved one can enjoy a longer and higher quality life. Medicare and most insurance plans cover senior assessment services.

The assessment will help to determine the cause of the problem and offer suggestions about your best options. It can assess whether the older adult can safely remain independently in the home or should seek a more supervised living arrangement. The assessment should consist of:
Physical examination – Includes walking and balance assessments
Psychological testing – Includes screenings for depression and memory loss
Diagnostic testing – Laboratory studies, MRI, X-rays as needed
Care coordination – Team members review findings from the family physician and the assessment; a patient care plan is developed to meet your individual needs, including identified problems and recommendations.
Cognitive testing for memory loss
Identification of chronic medical conditions and age-related conditions
Family conference – Team members meet with the patient and the family to discuss findings and recommendations. A full medical report is sent to the family physician for review and follow-up
Identifying polypharmacy – The effects of taking multiple medications concurrently to manage coexisting health problems

Results of the test enable physicians to assess cognitive deficits earlier in the disease state, before it has progressed too far, and begin an appropriate course of treatment. A full report is sent to your family physician. “The assessment can help you determine why your parent is struggling and what you can do. For example, if they simply can’t keep up with the physical demands required, and cannot afford to hire help, you and your siblings could all chip in and purchase a holiday gift of house cleaning or yard service,” she says. “Other times, the change could be caused by mental decline, and we can help you cope with that too.”

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