Aging is inevitable. Whether we are fortunate enough to be physically healthy and mentally alert or not, we all get old. Aging in place is the popular term for remaining in the home and avoiding placement in a nursing home to live out our days. To age in the comfort of one’s own home while being lovingly cared for by devoted family members is the dream most senior citizens share. Some people retain the ability to live alone with minimal assistance well into their 90’s. Others succumb to physical illnesses that debilitate them, or mental conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Circumstances may be different, but there is a common denominator shared by the aging population; the need for representation when aging results in vulnerability. Having a competent advocate can make the difference between dependence and independence, or even life and death.
Can I Be My Parent’s Advocate?
Yes, you can. An advocate is someone understands the needs and rights of an individual and works to be sure those needs are met, and rights are protected. If your parents live independently, you still need to have regular communication with them to assure they are able to take care of things such as bill paying, home repairs, and maintaining their lifestyle.
If they are planning a major home repair such as a roof replacement, or bathroom re-model, go over the plans with them. Talk to contractors to be sure they are not taking advantage of your parent’s lack of knowledge about the project or inflating the costs.
Accompany your parents to the doctor as an extra set of ears, and listen carefully to the doctor’s words. Sometimes the elderly have a hard time remembering the details of the doctor’s visit. Having a concerned family member nearby offers comfort and reassurance to the aging parent, and allows you to monitor your parent’s mental health and abilities.
If your parent is in a nursing home, your advocacy on your parent’s behalf is essential. Observe conditions in the facility and make sure your parent is clean, safe, and mentally stimulated. Observe meal service for nutritional value and palatability.
Pay special attention to any signs of verbal or physical abuse. If your parent seems anxious or nervous in the presence of a particular staff member, find out why. If he tells you someone has mistreated or verbally abused him, take immediate action and speak to the administrator.
If you notice unexplained bruises or marks on your parent’s body, or if he suffers an unexplained injury, take the necessary action without delay.
Can I Advocate For a Person Who Is Not a Relative?
Yes, you can be an advocate for an elderly friend or neighbor, using the same guidelines as outlined above. There are also agencies that provide advocates for elderly people who are vulnerable or at risk and do not have relatives or friends to look out for their interests. If you are interested in acting as an advocate for the elderly, check your local listings for advocacy groups providing services for the elderly in your community.