Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Aging in Place: Helping Seniors Live Independently

by Zinta Aistars
Published on Golden Slippers Network
November 2014

The Center for Disease Control defines “aging in place” as the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.
With more Americans living longer—our life expectancy has increased about 30 years since 100 years ago—how we age and where we age is becoming an ever greater concern, not only for seniors, but also for the families and caregivers of seniors.
“It’s definitely a trend,” says Rosanne DiZazzo-Miller, DrOT, OTRL, CDP, assistant professor, Wayne State University Occupational Therapy Program. “More seniors are choosing to live at home as long as possible. They see leaving home as giving up a large part of their independence.”
Holding onto independence, however, sometimes requires a little help. For families and caregivers of this fast-growing population of seniors, that means recognizing the signs that help is needed.
Memory Loss as a First Indicator
“There are several signs we can watch for,” says DiZazzo-Miller. “Memory loss can be one of the first indicators. An occasional memory lapse can happen at any age. If you remember where you left those keys a few minutes later, that’s normal, but if you can’t remember even after some time has gone by, if you can’t retrace your steps, that may be a sign of impairment.”
DiZazzo-Miller recommends watching for these indications that a senior may be experiencing memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s:
  • Memory loss – Not being able to recall a memory even after time has passed
  • Difficulty in word-finding – Searching for the right word and not finding it
  • Difficulty in communication – Speech becomes irrational
  • Shifts in personality – Changes in usual mood, such as the outgoing person becoming unusually quiet
  • General confusion – Trouble completing more complex daily tasks, such as balancing  checkbook, grocery shopping, or playing a card game that was once easy
“If you observe some or all of these signs in a senior, check with his or her primary physician first,” DiZazzo-Miller says. “The physician can run some tests and start the diagnostic process. There are many types of dementia, and the physician may then recommend a neuropsychologist.”
Even if a diagnosis of dementia is made, a person may still be able to go home and continue to live independently with minimal assistance.
Other Signs That Seniors Need Assistance
While memory loss may or may not be present, other signs may indicate that a person could use help in the tasks of daily living ...

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