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Senior community worker offers ideas on making sure loved ones are truly independent or need help

How would you feel if your driver's license was taken away for good? Or you became confused, forgetting things on a regular basis? Or wondered if you have paid your bills on time? Or if you had taken your medicine incorrectly?

What would it be like if you were isolated without social contact, lost your appetite and just couldn't bring yourself to cook any longer?

Thousands of Portland's seniors struggle with these essential survival questions each day.

The number of seniors in this position will grow expedientially in the years to come.

During the holidays, many seniors will be visited by family who may have not seen them for months or in some cases years. Many seniors present themselves well, unwilling to reveal their struggles so not to be a burden on their children. Family members of seniors are in most cases very involved with their children and work requirements to be able to assess regularly whether or not their parent has lost ground and is in need of assistance.

Holiday visits to seniors offer the perfect opportunity to look for signs of struggle.

Look for these signs:

-- Check to see what medications they are taking and watch while you visit if they are attentive to taking them regularly during your visit.

-- Find out if they are having social opportunities to see friends or attend clubs or if they are becoming more and more isolated. Ask who they go with and how they get there.

-- Look in their refrigerator to see if food is fresh or spoiled if they have out dated items. (One neighbor of mine had a 4-year-old old box of butter in hers.)

-- Is their house picked up, clean and maintained or becoming a burden?

-- Watch to see if there is any obvious bruising which is most likely due to a bad fall.

-- Are they less interested in preparing nutritious meals?

-- Are they dealing with increasing medical issues?

There are countless numbers of seniors with no family to keep a watchful eye. They are at the mercy of neighbors and friends who might be reliable enough to see they have groceries, rides to the doctor when needed or check on them regularly in case they have fallen or need to call an ambulance.

On the other hand, those same neighbors might find it a perfect opportunity to take advantage of them financially. In Oregon last year, there were more than 35,000 calls to Adult Protective Services for senior abuse.

What is the best option available to families with aging parents and seniors alone, with support systems no longer in place? Many think paying a caregiver to come and help a couple of times a week is a viable solution. The risk, however, is if the senior has a catastrophic fall, it could be a number of days without food or water before the car giver returns, which could have dire consequences.

When you suspect that staying in one's home could be a health risk for a senior, the process of finding the proper placement is daunting and many times overwhelming. A viable option would be to have a professional consultant assess what environment would best serve the senior depending upon his or her social, emotional and physical issues.

This professional should be well aware of what retirement, assisted living communities, Alzheimer's/dementia care and adult foster care homes have excellent long-standing reputations.

Having worked in the senior care industry as a community relations director for two communities over the past several years, I have found senior transition consultant Nancy Raske of NW Senior Resources just that professional. She has been a senior placement consultant for the past 10 years.

I have found her very knowledgeable about Portland's best senior care options, their management, quality of care and services. She informs her clients of the current survey results and does not ask a fee for her advocacy. Nancy is thorough in her approach prescreening all based on needs.

In addition, she personally escorts the seniors and their family members to visit and tour the communities or care homes she has prescreened. Nancy continues to follow up after her clients have moved in to ensure their needs are being met and they are satisfied with the placement.

What is the best option available to families with aging parents and seniors alone, with support systems no longer in place? Call Nancy Raske, she is a fabulous resource who will help you trouble-shoot the situation and give you viable options so your friend or loved one can be safe and live in a caring environment.

For more information, you may call her at 503-680-9407 or visit nwseniorresources.com.

Laisha Kneuven, who lives in King City, is the assisted and retirement community relations director for Country Meadows Village in Woodburn.

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