The Caring Corner - Blog

Noticing the Need During the Holidays

By Emma Dickison

The Holidays can be a time of stress as we make out our gift lists, finish our shopping, plan get-togethers and get everything “just so.” There may also be some travel involved we don’t normally do, which can be a total stressor all on its own.

But the reason we do all these things and put so much pressure on ourselves is because we want to do something nice for the people we care about the most. At some point, we’re finally gathered with our loved ones and can finally exhale and bask in the glow of family.

It may be at this time, as we are in the company of our senior loved ones, we may first notice some indications Mom or Dad, or Aunt Betty or Uncle Norm, aren’t quite the same. Maybe they’re a little forgetful, or they’re driving skills aren’t as sharp as they used to be. There are any number of indicators nagging at us and saying, “things aren’t the same.” We call it “noticing the need” and it eventually affects all families.

According to the government, while 70% of all adults age 65 or older require some type of in-home care, only about 10% are actually receiving care because the signs go unnoticed. To help you make informed decisions for your family, here are four signs you should look for to determine if some type of in-home care is needed to help your loved one to live safely. 

  1. Physical appearance and hygiene. Has your loved one lost weight? Are there any bruises or cuts? If you’re visiting their home, is it as clean and tidy as it used to be? Are their clothes clean and is their appearance as sharp as usual? Pay attention to all of these factors, especially as they relate to the way they normally have presented themselves in the past. 
  2. Memory. All of us can be forgetful at times, but when it becomes more pronounced or involves safety issues (like leaving a pan on a hot stove or locking oneself outside of the house), there may be more to think about. If forgetfulness is combined with changes in thinking or demeanor, it may mean that further action – including a trip to the doctor – may be necessary. 
  3. Motor skills. Balance is a key indicator, along with evidence of falls (again, those cuts and bruises as mentioned above). With more than 2.5 million seniors treated for fall injuries each year, a decline in motor skills can be a very serious issue. There are personal safety devices available, such as our Direct Link products, which contain fall sensors, emergency call buttons and even GPS tracking.
  4. Retirement can be a great thing, but it also takes away regular interaction with other people if there isn’t another source of social interaction. What does your loved one talk about? Do they have friends? Do they seem happy? Companion care could be a terrific help. Caregivers can come to the house and play games, help with hobbies and even provide transportation to senior centers or “lunch with the girls” so your loved one feels engaged and always has something to look forward to.

If you notice any of these factors with your loved one, the first thing to do is keep a list of these observations and document whether it’s an ongoing issue or it was just a temporary thing (we can all be in a bad mood at times, for example). Talk with other family members, friends and neighbors to see if they’ve noticed the same things and have them look for changes, too.

Depending on the issue, you can then begin to do some research on finding a solution. It could be something like a PERS (Personal Emergency Response System) device, finding an activity to keep your loved one engaged or maybe it’s even contacting a local in-home care agency such as Home Helpers.

Whatever you decide, it’s vital that you have a conversation with your loved one and get their input! Start this conversation with your loved one when you first start noticing any of the factors above and really listen to their response. Keep the conversation going and allow them to keep their dignity and participate in finding solutions.

Please enjoy a wonderful Holiday Season and this special time with family and friends!