For many of us, the holidays are the time of year when we get to spend a little extra time with loved ones. No matter how long you get to connect this year, you may start to notice some indications that loved ones aren’t quite the same. Maybe they’re a little forgetful, have lost weight, not as social as they used to be or even have cuts or bruises. These indicators are signs that they may need a little help with their everyday life. We call this “Noticing the Need.”
What you observe now will be a good indicator of when they may need in-home care: immediately, the near future, a long time from now, or perhaps not at all. What’s important is that you start paying attention now for signs of them needing help with making their lives easier.
So, what exactly should you be looking for? According to Dr. Lewis A. Lipsitz, a geriatrician and professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, as people grow older and develop age-related diseases, two of the most common are the loss of mobility and the loss of cognition. These are very broad areas, so let’s break them down into everyday examples.
- Hygiene. Notice the clothes they wear. Are they disheveled or are they wearing anything with old food stains or rips that would normally be tended to immediately? Is their toothbrush being used or are they cleaning their dentures every night? Are they bathing regularly?
- Housekeeping. Is the tub or toilet long overdue for a scrubbing? In the kitchen, is there any food that’s been left out for too long? Is there a lot of spoiled or moldy food in the refrigerator? A sink full of dishes is no big deal, unless there isn’t even one clean teaspoon or coffee cup around. Then it may be time to engage in a service to help with the cleaning on a regular basis.
- Memory. No one’s memory is perfect, but leaving the stove on or repeatedly locking oneself out of the house could be signs of dementia. So could forgetting names of relatives and close friends, forgetting their date of birth (or yours), and asking a question and then asking it again right after you’ve given them an answer. Early detection of dementia matters, so it’s important to take action and contact their physician.
- Dexterity and balance. Not being able to grasp the handrail, being unable to step over a small obstacle on the floor, or a decline in balance puts them at great risk for falling. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of injuries. The fear of falling is also a wellness issue among the elderly, who may unnecessarily limit their activities and social engagements if they feel that going out is too risky. But, not staying active can result in both physical and psychological decline.
- Socializing. Retirement brings a generous amount of free time—sometimes too generous because it ends the daily interaction with co-workers. Without something to replace that, your loved one risks isolation and depression. If they don’t go to Bingo anymore because they can no longer drive, or if everyone in their bridge group has passed away, then companion care could be a terrific solution. Caregivers can come to the house and play games, help with hobbies, and even provide transportation to senior centers or lunch dates with friends. It’s important that your loved one always has something to look forward to.
Of course, Covid-19 has changed pretty much everything in our lives, so if you’re skipping this year’s holiday visit, there are other ways to find out how your elderly loved one is coping with everyday tasks and situations. It’s possible to get some measure of the quality of their social life in your phone conversations when you ask them how their day was, what did they do, etc. The same goes for determining if their memory is still intact.
To find out about hygiene, housekeeping, and dexterity, ask a friendly neighbor or someone else who sees them frequently to look for signs of decline. Share this blog post so they know what to look for.
If you’ve determined that it’s time to start a conversation about elderly in-home care services, don’t put it off. And it’s vital to get your loved one’s input and really listen to their response. Keeping them included is essential to their dignity and to finding the caregiver service that will be the best fit.
If you noticed a need for your loved one, Home Helpers ® in-home care team is here to answer all your questions. We offer a Free In-Home Care Assessment, where we will learn about the individual care needs and build a customized plan that meets the needs today and prepares for the future. Bringing in support early is a great way for your loved one to remain independent and safe in their own home.