It’s a demanding and delicate balancing act of ensuring the loved one is safe while allowing them autonomy and a sense of independence. One important element of this care is making sure the adult is not self-neglecting. Self-neglect, a condition in which individuals fail to meet their own basic needs, is the most reported and substantiated form of elder abuse, according to adult protective services. Unsurprisingly, older adults who self-neglect are more susceptible to exploitation by others.
Luckily, as the population of older adults grows, so too does the variety of resources available to their caregivers. A small group of older adults in Chicago is benefitting from one of the most recent resources.
Researchers at Rutgers University’s Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research have developed a tool to support both older adults and their caregivers in regards to preventing self-neglect. “Checking in” on the older adult often means putting eyes on the person and their living conditions. Given the fact that many caregivers of older adults are in the sandwich generation, it can be difficult to be present as much as is necessary. The Rutgers research tool empowers caregivers to screen their loved ones risk for self-neglect while the older adult maintains independence of living at home without feeling constantly watched or scrutinized by their family or caregivers.
The vulnerability index tool identifies factors that commonly lead to self-neglect, like the use of a hearing aid, taking routine aspirin or having high blood pressure. The screening is ten questions and takes only minutes to administer.
While further studies are still warranted to use the tool on a larger scale, Rutgers researchers were encouraged by how accurate the screening was on the Chicago-dwelling adults for risk of self-neglect.
Dolan Memory Care Homes recognizes the stress caregiving for a loved one will create. All of the families are supported emotionally through the community developed in the households. At Dolan, families informally lean on other families for support when visiting loved ones or at a holiday party or summer BBQ. Dolan Memory Care Homes hosts a spouse meet-up at restaurants, where spouses with loved ones living at Dolan are able to connect. Additionally, each house has a nurse manager and social worker equipped to meet emotional needs of family members. Social workers at Dolan Memory Care Homes make regular phone calls to family members to specifically check in. At Dolan Memory Care Homes, we recognize that in a layer of taking care of an individual with a memory impairment also includes caring for the family as a whole.