Morro expert gives tips on elder care

‘Over the river, and through the wood — when Grandmother sees us come, she will say, ‘O, dear, the children are here, bring a pie for everyone.’ ” These are lyrics from a familiar Thanksgiving song written by Lydia Maria Child.

Not to dampen the mood, but if you haven’t visited your elderly relatives lately, Meredith Bates, a Morro Bay-based certified geriatric care manager, has some red-flag tips to help you assess how life is progressing for your loved ones.

“Elders don’t want to bother their children and will often hide what’s happening — even when they know they need help,” Bates said.

Some telltale signs: Is there clutter? Is mail piling up or are science projects growing in the refrigerator? Has the wash been done or is clothing stained with more than pumpkin pie? Do simpler tasks seem confusing? Is your loved one losing weight? Is there paranoia about friends and neighbors? Are you afraid to drive with your grandparents? Have you noticed recent dents in their car? Have bills piled up, have balance statements not been adjusted or, if bills are auto-pay, are there double payments?

Educated at UC Berkeley with her master’s from Arizona State University, Bates began her career in marriage and family counseling but transitioned to develop a vocational rehabilitation practice in Southern California. Once she raised her family, she jumped at the chance to buy an established business in San Luis Obispo. She discovered there were many seniors in the area without family nearby. Bates Care Management was established eight years ago to fill a need.

“My favorite clients were seniors, so I got my national certification,” Bates said. “I work with the family, but the senior is always the client. Most clients are families out of the area with parents here who might need extra attention for various reasons. Only 20 percent of seniors want to move into assisted living. They want to stay in their home. I help them manage their medical, social, legal and/or financial lives. I might escort them to medical appointments, help with bill paying and I make sure they are not ripped off.

“Often, the family thinks a student or adult live-in will work out,” Bates said, “but please be cautious, and always do background checks. I highly recommend seeking caregivers from licensed agencies … for safety and economic reasons. You want to trust your caregiver to be another pair of eyes and ears as well as a friend to your loved one while you live farther away.”