Ten Signs That Home Care Could Benefit Your Loved One
Sometimes when a senior experiences a stroke, heart attack, hip fracture, or other sudden changes in their health condition, family immediately realize their loved one needs assistance with the activities of daily living.
Or, perhaps a particular event serves as a wake-up call. Reports one family caregiver, "Dad left a dishtowel on the burner and then turned the stove on. Luckily I was visiting that day and was able to put out the blaze. That incident helped everyone in the family see that Dad's memory loss was making it unsafe for him to be unattended at home."
But most often, a loved one's needs change slowly, without us noticing. Especially when we live out of town, our parents might assure us that everything is fine—when in reality, they are having trouble living independently.
Here are some signals that an older loved one's care needs are changing:
Your loved one is "letting herself go." Untrimmed nails, body odor, poor oral hygiene, or soiled clothing all might indicate that personal care is becoming a challenge. It may be difficult to get in and out of the bathtub, use the washing machine, or remember to perform the daily tasks once taken for granted.
Your loved one's home is not kept up. Arthritis and osteoporosis, visual impairment, memory loss, or other health conditions present a challenge to performing the usual household tasks. If you notice clutter and dirt when your loved one has usually been a good housekeeper, this can be a sign that help is needed.
Your loved one isn't eating well. Is he having trouble maintaining a healthy weight? Does he mostly eat prepackaged meals? Do you noticed scorched pans or spoiled food? Does stroke, arthritis, or another health condition make it hard for him to prepare food or eat?
Your loved one has fallen, or is afraid of falling. Seniors are sometimes hesitant to discuss falling, but this is an important conversation to have. Talk with your loved one about falls. Does she seem unsteady on her feet? Have you noticed bruising or other injuries? Is she having trouble navigating stairs and walkways? Does she avoid exercise because it seems safer to be inactive?
Your loved one is having trouble managing medications. Failing to take medications correctly can have a serious impact on seniors' health. Is your parent forgetting to take medicines? Are the instructions confusing for him? Does he leave pill bottles open? Are there medicines which are past the expiration date?
Your loved has cut back on outings and activities. The old term "shut-in" used to be applied to almost any senior with mobility issues. Staying in the house was taken for granted. But now we know that inactivity and isolation leads to depression and further decline. It's important to know why the person is less active, and to take steps to help her be as engaged as possible with activities she enjoys.
There are piles of mail on the table, and overdue bills. When a loved one has Alzheimer's or other memory loss, it can be a challenge to sort through the junk mail and ads that show up in our mailboxes, and to be sure bills are being paid on time.
Your loved one has been a fraud victim. Con artists often target seniors who live alone, especially those with confusion and memory loss. Scammers sell the names of likely targets, so look for increased sweepstakes and charity mailings in the mail, unexplained large telephone charges, or multiple new magazine subscriptions.
Caring for your loved one is a growing challenge. Are you experiencing "caregiver burnout"? Are you losing sleep worrying about your loved one's increasing needs? Are you part of the "Sandwich Generation," simultaneously providing care for both minor children and elders?
Long-distance caregivers are feeling increasing concern. Keeping in touch by phone, email, and occasional visits may no longer provide adequate assurance about your loved one's well-being.
If one or more of the above signs describes your loved one's situation, in-home care may be the right solution to keep him safe and comfortable at home.
Beginning with an assessment of your loved one's needs, a professional in-home care agency can provide services that include:
Personal care: assistance with bathing, dressing, oral hygiene, using the bathroom, and incontinence care.
Light housekeeping: vacuuming, dusting, cleaning floors, organizing drawers and closets, and sorting mail.
Medication management: medication reminders, organizing medications, and watching for side effects.
Nutrition support: grocery shopping and preparing appetizing meals, eating assistance, and help with special diets.
Transportation: to healthcare appointments and the pharmacy, to social events and activities, or just "out and about"—a great way to help your loved one be active and engaged.
Companionship: helping your loved one avoid isolation and depression, and providing watchful protection for seniors with memory loss.
Reassurance for family: an extra measure of peace of mind, knowing a caring presence is at hand when they can't be.
A home health aide can come to your loved one's home or retirement community, or to your home. You can hire full-time or part-time home care, or for occasional respite care to give family caregivers a break. The Caring Right at Home online newsletter will continue to offer information about the ways home care can support you as you provide support for your senior loved one.
Right at Home is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned, franchised providers of in-home care and assistance service