2008-02-01 / Columnists

Spotlight On Elderlaw

Keep Track Of The Warning Signs
Commentary By Nancy J. Brady, RN, Esq. And Linda Faith Marshak, Esq.

As elderlaw attorneys, we frequently visit clients who reside in senior residences and assisted living facilities. Maxine Simson, Director of Patient Outreach at Sunrise Senior Living at Mill Basin advised us during one of our recent visits that many of the families of the seniors residing at Sunrise reported noticing changes in their parents or relatives which initiated their interest in residing in a setting where some services and socialization is available on a daily basis.

Simson commented that during the holidays, when families have had the opportunity to spend time with elderly relatives, particularly when they don't see them on a fairly regular basis, they may have noticed some changes that have given cause for concern. Some of these changes are obvious causes for concern, but there are many subtle changes that may indicate that elderly relatives may not be functioning so well on their own.

The following is a list of changes to notice when spending time with parents or other elderly relatives:

Did your relative have any difficulties helping prepare the holiday meals?

(Setting the table, preparing food, following simple recipes)

Did you notice less interest in participating in the holidays, or visiting?

Was their home kept up as usual? Was their hygiene as good as usual?

Did you notice any forgetfulness during conversations?

Did you notice any difficulties with their managing finances and paying bills, or keeping up the checkbook?

Do you have concerns about their remembering to take medications?

Are they socializing with friends and relatives as much as usual?

If you have noticed any of these subtle changes in your relative, and have ruled out any medical causes, perhaps it is time to consider planning for their long term care. If your relatives have not completed at least the basic estate planning documents, you should make sure that they do, including Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy and Last Will and Testament. If your relative has assets, you should discuss planning to protect those assets from the costs of nursing home care and home care services. The Medicaid rules have changed, and plans must be made as early as possible to protect those hard earned assets as much as possible.

Finally, it is a good idea to explore what options are available for your relatives beforehand, rather than wait for an unforeseen event, or another emergency. Sunrise Senior Living facilities are an option for your relatives who are fairly independent, but would benefit from some services being provided to them like meals, housekeeping, laundry, in a setting where there is ample opportunity for socialization and activity. It is a good idea to explore options with and for your relatives and include them in going to visit facilities.

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