As I sit in my favorite Adirondack chair watching the sunset over the lake, I’m feeling pretty happy that it’s summer in Minnesota. Those wonderful days when we all feel a little more like playing, a little more free with our schedules, a little less structured and when we have a great excuse to put off some of our normal responsibilities — after all “it’s summer.”
Now as the sun begins to set earlier and earlier, I can’t help but get a little antsy. As much as I can’t wait to get away from some of my routines when summer approaches — stay up a little later, eat dinner a little later, even get up earlier and enjoy the beautiful mornings — I find myself getting ready to get back to the more structured life that fall brings.
It probably stems back to getting ready for school, getting those supplies and new clothes all lined up for the next nine months of routine. I loved helping get my girls ready, and even remember when my mom took me on one big shopping trip to the “city” each year. I’m starting to feel like I need a little structure again, I guess it’s time to get “ready for school.”
As I think about what I need to do to get back into the routine and “ready for school” in my own life, I can’t help think about my parents also. It’s just a good excuse to make sure everything is in order for the months coming up.
Of course, first of all for school, you have to have all your supplies and all your forms filled out. Remember to check with your senior loved one to make sure you have the emergency information necessary at their fingertips and at yours. Do you have in a safe place for a list of current medications and when they are taken? Do you have lists of emergency contacts, the person who has been designated to help make financial decisions (power of attorney) and health care decisions (health care power of attorney)? Do you have your Advanced Directives filed and assessable to those who need the information?
What about insurance policies, the copy of your will and testament? If you need a little assistance in getting these things organized, check out www.SeniorEmergencyKit.com or call us at 824-0077 for a free copy of a kit that has been designed to help you keep all this information at your fingertips. Also available is a refrigerator magnet and wallet card to help keep some of the basic information accessible.
Are you ready to pack your lunches or made the deposit to eat school lunches? What about the senior you love? Are they eating healthy meals? Are there any issues with cooking meals or the ability to make out a grocery list or to get to the grocery store? Is eating alone so lonely that your senior is skipping meals? Are there meals on wheels available in the area, or people (volunteer or hired) willing to help with grocery shopping? What about a companion to eat with?
Of course, it’s time to get back into a better sleeping routine. No more staying up late to watch the sunset, there’s school tomorrow! Are the seniors you love getting enough sleep or are they having difficulty? Are there medical issues that should be checked out? When they get up in the middle of the night, are the hallways safe? Is there enough light to assure they can see well enough to avoid falls? Do they need to be a little more activity during the day in order to sleep a little better at night?
Do you need a computer to go back to school? Communication through cell phones and email can be very convenient for family members, but seniors may balk a little at this technology. I discovered a wonderful machine that simply receives and print emails for my parents. They don’t need to do anything except keep the paper tray filled and check a couple times a day to see what has arrived! They are receiving letters, emails even event reminders from family and friends across the country. Check it out at www.presto.com .
Do you need forms to approve taking medications at school? Does your loved one handle their medications correctly? Is it easy to understand their system, or do they need a little assistance in helping to set up a pill reminder box? Have you checked with their pharmacy to see if they can set up a Bubble Pack system for their medications?
Are you sure your backpacks aren’t too heavy? Is your senior able to transfer things around the house? Are laundry baskets getting too heavy to carry to laundry room, especially if laundry is on a different level of the house? Are stairways safe for transferring items from storage areas, garages? Are their cleared hallways and stairways, well lit and free from clutter?
Are there new bus routes to worry about and learn? What about transportation for your senior? Is your senior safe to drive? This conversation is one of the hardest ones to have, but one of the most necessary. The best recommendation is start this conversation early, well before it’s necessary. Let your loved one tell you what decision they want you to make if they are no longer safe to drive. Keep talking about this subject. Ride with your loved one as often as possible to make sure they are safe. If they are no longer able to drive, the most important thing you need to do is help them figure out how they are going remain independent and get where they want to go. Are there buses available? Are there family members or friends that might be available on a scheduled day to help with transportation? Is there someone to pick them up to still get to their coffee groups, bible studies, church or out to dinner occasionally. What services are in their area that may be able to help?
As much as I love this Adirondack chair and the beautiful warm weather, I’m ready to make sure things are in order for fall and “school to start.” I’ll make my checklist for myself and for mom and dad. It’s time to give up the long, lazy days of summer for one more year and be ready for a little more structure as fall begins. Do you think if I remind my mom of those great shopping trips we took for school clothes, she’d take me again? It’s worth a try!
DEB CRANNY is the executive director at Home Instead Senior Care in Brainerd.