In the article, Ryan discusses the common signs of functional decline, what to look for – signs to be aware of. He says “Studies have documented that functional decline, i.e., the loss of either complex or basic ADL functions is due to changes in one or more of six areas: physical, perceptual, cognitive, visual and hearing, falling and psychological…”
He focuses on the first three in this blog post (I expect another blog post to follow with the next three)
I am always interested in looking at common factors as we age, and how technologies like GrandCare and others on the market along with a combination of caregiving techniques and supervised care can help in ways to prevent, deter and treat.
1. Physical Decline
Obviously, this happens as we get older. I already notice that I am sorer after running or exercising, I recall a day when I didn’t even think of stretching before or after exercise and today I certainly feel the consequences if I fail to do the recommended body stretching. So, how does losing physical strength, balance, stamina and coordination affect us? It could make a fall more possible, it could prevent the exercise needed to maintain muscle strength, it could encourage more napping. So, what do we do? Well, obviously, home modification is a big one. We can have wider accessible doorways and ramps, so it’s easier to get around if/when a walker is needed as well as a wheelchair. The inability to walk no longer makes us automatically a candidate for facility life. We can have systems like GrandCare automatically turn on a light if/when we get out of bed during the night (to mitigate nighttime falls). We can eliminate floor rugs – eliminate the slipping factors involved. We can set up a GrandCare remote monitoring system, to indicate to caregivers that a loved one may not be moving around as frequently, perhaps is sleeping more, not getting out of a chair the entire day, and even can indicate if movement stops (potentially a fall?)
2. Perceptual Changes
Ryan discusses perceptual changes as “all the senses: vision, hearing, sensitivity to touch, taste – even smell. After all, each is important to overall well-being. If you can’t smell smoke, you may lose your life to a house fire; if your sense of touch is diminished by poor circulation, you may be burned by scalding water”. So, the nice thing about certain technologies is being able to alert others of potential “hazards”. Technologies can alert family members if the temperature gets too warm or too cold in the home. A GrandCare stove detector could indicate to the Loved One (through alarms, phone calls, etc) that the stove was left on too long or could call a nearby caregiver or neighbor…
Ryan talks about medications sometimes being responsible for changes. Technology can be a great assist in not only medication management (GrandCare can make a phone call, email, text if meds are not taken), but also can give a bigger picture image of how medications might be affecting a loved one. A Florida GrandCare client recently called and tearfully told me that her mother was declining and it seemed as though she had “sundowners”. She knew this because of the GrandCare motion graphs that showed a lack of movement during the day, agitated sleep patterns, activity throughout the night (whereas her mother used to just get up one time a night and soundly sleep the rest). My Florida client took the print out of these motion graphs to a doctor to get his opinion. She and he were both shocked to make the correlation between a medication change (heart medication change) for her mother and the dramatic change in activity/sleep patterns. He made a tweak to her medications and it made a world of a difference. This is what we’re talking about! This is what makes coming to work worthwhile for me — seeing a true change that technology can make for people, make their lives better, brighter and help caregivers making them into SUPER CAREGIVERS!
3. Cognitive Changes
Ryan discusses losing the ability to focus or multi-task. The inability to remember things short term. Well, I can say that as I’ve aged, I have experienced this a bit! I remember after having my first baby boy blaming my Mom-nesia for things. The reasons? Lack of sleep? Lack of attention (I was pretty focused on the present and making sure I did everything right, I didn’t have the time nor the care to focus on other things). I think this is pretty typical. We forget things as we have to focus on other things, we are compensating every day! I use my alarm clock every morning, I use my google calendar to remind me of my daily activities – pretty sure if I didn’t have that I’d miss every appointment on my calendar. I use my colleagues, I use my family and my husband to continually provide cognitive assists for me, so I can remember to do things. The fridge still has shopping lists posted, so I don’t forget to grab them. We all need this. Using technologies, we can provide these services remotely for our loved ones. Providing a TO DO list on a virtual “Bulletin board” makes a lot of sense. Perhaps a display of today’s events. The thing we’ve always said about GrandCare is that it never gets tired of saying the same thing repeatedly. It never judges, it never gets irritated when answering a question for the nth time. GrandCare can give the time, date, weather reports, medication reminders. GrandCare can tell a loved one that it’s cold outside and remind them to bundle up.
Thanks Ryan for another thought-provoking article!
Functional decline is sometimes difficult to diagnose as individual symptoms often go unnoticed. Below is a list of symptoms of functional decline to be familiar with.
- Misusing medication (over or under use and deviating from a schedule)
- Reports of inexplicable behavior from friends, neighbors or family members
- Poor personal hygiene
- Unpaid bills
- Changes in spending patterns
- inappropriate clothing
- Stains on clothing or upholstery from urine or feces
- Forgetting how to use simple tools
- Poorly cared-for pets
- Repetitive questioning
- Difficulty in communicating
- Unfinished tasks and chores
- Spoiled or poorly-prepared food