What factors dictate when assistance is needed?
It's common to need assistance as we age, but it's not always clear what kind of help we need. Should you or your loved one get in-home care, or is it time to move to an assisted living community?
It's not always easy to tell when our loved ones need help. To them, the changes might be gradual and unnoticeable, but from an outsider's perspective, it could be glaringly obvious.
A professional assessment of your loved one's physical and mental condition as well as their current environment can help you better understand what type of care they need. They may be able to continue living at home with some modifications, or they might need a few days of outside help per week. In other cases, they might do better in a community setting, or they may require full-time care.
Red Flags That Might Mean They Need Help
Is Mobility an Issue?
Prevention is key when it comes to slips, falls, and trips to the hospital. By ensuring your loved one's home is free of any hazards, you can rest easy knowing they won't get injured. Common hazards in the home include slippery throw rugs and staircases without railings. Is it easy for them to get at everything they use on a regular basis, or do they require a step stool? Also, look at their shoes and their pants for problems. When people grow older, they tend to shrink.
Watch them for a few hours during different times of the day. Do they drag their feet or pick up their legs? Is there anything unusual about the breadth of their feet? Do they struggle to get themselves out of a chair or back into a seated position? When they walk, do they grab tables or walls to help support themselves? Grabbing furniture or walls as you stroll is an indication that someone is leaning on them.
There are ways you can help your elderly loved one stay in their home for longer, such as:
- Remove any throw rugs or other obstacles from the floors.
- Install grab bars in bathrooms.
- Rearrange items in closets and cabinets so they are within reach.
If you're unsure of how to best help them, ask your doctor for a recommendation to a professional who can evaluate your loved one's needs in their home environment.
Physical or occupational therapy or a certified aging-in-place specialist, for example, may all help.
Has Their Appearance Changed?
If you see your loved one on a regular basis, it might not be as apparent that something is wrong because the change has happened gradually over time. However, if you only see them occasionally, you may notice huge changes every time you visit. For example: Have they lost weight to the point where their clothes are now too big? Does dad stop shaving or grooming his beard? Does mom not do her hair anymore? Do they wear the same outfit every day regardless of spills or stains? These could all be signs of depression or memory issues.
It might indicate a lack of enthusiasm to tidy up, forgetfulness, or low self-esteem. It's also possible that they're not sure how to get in and out of the shower or use the washing machine and dryer. It's entirely possible that it's something else altogether.
Is There a Changed in Mental Health?
Depression: It's typical for an elderly person to have days where they're not feeling their best. Maybe they're lonely after their spouse has passed away, or sad on a gloomy day. However, there are also signs of depression which we need to be aware of, such as anger or irritability, loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, changes in levels of energy, having trouble sleeping or sleeping all the time, eating more than usual or less than usual , thoughts or talking about death or suicide.
Dementia: Although it's typical for everyone to forget things more as they get older, persons with dementia have a harder time than others. They may not know how to use appliances like the phone or start a microwave. This can lead to issues with taking medicines, handling money, and driving.
Listen to your loved ones and be on the lookout for changes in behavior. If you don't live near by, talk frequently on the phone with friends and neighbors to keep an eye on your relatives.
Has Their Ability to Handle Finances Changed?
If you visit your elderly loved ones and see piles of unopened mail or unpaid bills, this could be a red flag. They may be forgetting to pay their bills, or it may be getting harder for them to figure out how to do so. Because the elderly are the number one target for scammers, it's important to have regular conversations with our loved ones about their finances and check in on them often. If you see large transactions that shouldn't be there, or if regular payments have stopped being made, it might be time to step in and help.
Help with organization can come in different ways, such as prioritizing mail for them or having somebody else pay their bills.
Along with this, confirm that their affairs are organized. Should they become unable to manage their own finances or health, is there someone else in place to take care of these things?
Has Driving Become a Challenge?
According to AAA, our nation's seniors are living longer than they can drive by seven to ten years. And, as the population ages, there will be over 70 million people aged 65 and above in 2030, with around 85 percent of those having a driver's license.
If you're concerned about your loved one's driving, it might be time to have a discussion about avoiding the vehicle. Examine their automobile for hidden dents and scratches. If you have any concerns, there are lots of places in every city where you and your family can get help determining their driver safety.
Difficulties in Managing Their Medication?
As we get older, the pile of pills in the cupboard grows. There's a lot to keep track of, from remembering to take them and when to remember to rotate your meds for optimum results. Plus, keeping track of who is giving you medications and what they're treating you for will be crucial.
Interacting with medications can be dangerous, especially for seniors. To make it simpler for them to keep track of their pills, set up a pill organizer. Plus, ask the pharmacist if there are any potential interactions between different drugs. If you observe your senior citizen feeling unusually sleepy or tired, have a conversation with their doctor as drug interactions might be the root cause.
What to do Next?
Perhaps you're noticing some warning signs that signify they might need help around the house? You could potentially bring in a helper one or two days per week, assist with their medications or groceries, and determine what other needs they might have with the help of a professional.
We've have resources for you. Please notify us if you'd want us to pass along the name of a local St Louis specialist. We'll reach out to our community contacts to find you the assistance you require. You may include where your loved one is so that we can suggest someone in the metro area who would be best suited to assist him or her.