When do my parents need home care?
How do I know?
What should I look for?
Where do I begin?
These are questions that I get asked all the time. This is a topic that is not black and white, but a wide array of shades of grey. There is no right or wrong answer unless your loved one’s safety is a concern.
Here are a few red flags that should make you take notice and investigate further:
Be on the lookout of your loved one’s personal appearance: are they wearing dirty clothes, do they have stains or spills that go unnoticed, do they have messy hair, or are they not bathing on a regular basis? Perhaps they are having vision problems and just cannot see stains on their clothes. Are they having balance issues and are afraid to bathe alone? Do they have memory issues and cannot remember if they bathed or not?
Condition of the Home
It is important to have someone drop in and check on your loved one and check their living conditions. You should notice if there are piles of dirty clothes, stacks of dirty dishes, spoiled food in the refrigerator, unopened bills, burnt out light bulbs, unresolved home repairs and if there is a general difficulty in keeping the house clean and sanitary. Is your loved one too tired or in too much pain to keep the house clean? Do they feel that they cannot handle their finances and pay their bills?
Does your loved one have unexplained bruises or pain? Many older adults do not want to admit that they are falling. They are afraid to let people know for fear of being removed from their home. Falling is a serious safety concern and should be addressed immediately, but gently. Besides the obvious safety concerns of a broken bone, fear of falling can lead to isolation and depression.
Has your loved one been missing appointments, forgetting to pay bills, or is excessively repeating the same thoughts or conversations? Most people have some degree of forgetfulness which they are aware of and is not a concern…the concern is when the person does not realize they are forgetting.
Is your loved one not leaving the house? Have they stopped running errands or going to church or other routine social activities? There can be many reasons why older adults are uncomfortable leaving the house like a fear of falling, dealing with a walker, poor hearing or vision, afraid to come home to an empty house, or afraid to drive in the dark. Being isolated can become serious and can lead to depression and other safety issues.
Driving can be a huge source of contention with older adults. Taking away the keys can feel like a blow to one’s independence. Look for dents and scrapes on the car as well as issues such as forgetting where they parked the car. If you feel it is unsafe for your loved one as well as other people on the streets, you need to discuss alternate transportation solutions.
Is your loved one losing weight? Is it due to poor nutrition? Has it become too difficult to stand and prepare healthy meals? Check their refrigerator and pantry for the types of food they have and ask what they normally eat each day. Weight loss can lead to balance issues and poor nutrition can exacerbate chronic health issues.
Notice if your loved one seems lonely or sad or if they have lost a spouse or close friend recently. Do you and your family live out of town or work every day? Are you part of the sandwich generation raising your kids and caring for your parents at the same time? There are not enough hours in the day to care for everyone, including yourself. Having care in the home doesn’t mean you have to have full time care every day. Care can be a certain number of hours a day for however many days a week. The care and the schedule can change as your loved one’s needs change. Having in home care can be a cost effective way to make sure your senior loved ones are eating nutritious meals, taking medications as directed, live in a clean environment, and have the companionship they need…and give you and your family the respite you may need to be the best caregiver for your loved ones.