Senior Savvy: Keep seniors cool and safe this summer
Q: My father does not drink a lot of liquids and I am worried with the warm weather that he will become dehydrated. Are there any suggestions to offer him so he will consume more liquids?
A: Many older people enjoy popsicles and they come in many flavors. They are available without sugar if your father is a diabetic. Try the flavored waters available in the retail stores to see if your father will drink more. Also purchase fruit such as watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew and grapes; keep them within easy access in the refrigerator. Purchase the fruit cut up and ready to eat so little effort is needed by your father. Pour liquids in an insulated drink container and add ice. The container will keep the beverage cool all day, and if your dad sees the drink out on the table he will drink more often.
If your father uses a walker, then use some Velcro tape to attach a water bottle. If family members visit they can bring in a milkshake or iced coffee as a treat. If there is help in the home, have the help remind your father to drink.
Watch for symptoms of dehydration, which include dizziness, weakness, swollen tongue and dry mouth (difficulty swallowing food because there is little saliva in the mouth), a feeling that the heart is jumping or pounding, decrease in urine output, dark-colored urine, confusion, quick weight loss and fever.
If you feel your father is exhibiting any of these symptoms, take him to the emergency room where a doctor can diagnosis dehydration. The doctor will also complete a medical workup to determine if the above symptoms are an indication of another medical condition.
Q: I am going on a two-week vacation and my parents live with me. Should I hire help in my home or move them to a nursing home? My father has memory loss and my mother and I care for my father.
A: Many home-care agencies can provide 24-hour care. If your parents can stay in your (their) home, there will be continuity of care. Even with planning, your mother will bear the responsibility without you there.
When you speak with the home-care agency inform them of your routine with your father and what is expected. Then, write down your father's daily routine and other important information.
There is always the option of respite care in an assisted living and/or nursing home. If your mother is alert, she may also want a vacation and moving them to an assisted living facility allows your mother a mini-vacation.
Although she would still be responsible, there is staff available 24 hours a day, meals are all prepared, she has activities and the ability to meet other people and socialize. If your mother is interested, then tour a local assisted living facility and discuss respite care with them. Some assisted living facilities have fully furnished units for a short-term stay. A nursing home is also an option, however many residents in nursing homes have memory loss and an admission may be too depressing for your mother. The final decision should rest with your mother.
ElderCare Resource Services is a partnership of geriatric nurses and social workers that helps families to investigate, assess and recommend medical and non-medical care and resources for seniors. Send questions to SeniorSavvy@ElderCareResources.com or ElderCare Resources Inc., 29 Gano Road, Marlborough, MA 01752.