The holidays are coming, and with them come love, laughter, and fellowship. Visiting parents can be one of the highlights of the year. But as your parents get older, the holidays become an opportune time to watch for signs that they may require some assistance, especially if you don’t see them often. On telephone conversations, of course, your loved ones will reassure you that they are fine — and they can be quite convincing! But most older adults do not want to admit they need help, or they cannot see it themselves. That’s why it’s important for you to keep an eye out for telling signs that your parents are getting older and may need some help.
Signs that your loved one may need elder home care
As you make your holiday visits this year, keep in mind these signs that your loved one may need assistance:
- Changes in appearance — if they seem unkempt, inappropriately dressed for the weather or occasion, or if they forget to wear items such as glasses or hearing aides
- Obvious fluctuations in weight — gain or loss
- Difficulty moving about — for example, more difficult getting up out of a chair
- The house seems out of order — normal household tasks are left undone (garbage piling in garage, several light bulbs out, excessive clutter, items out of place)
- Stacks of mail or unpaid bills lying around
- Spoiled food in the fridge or lack of food in the cupboards
- Medications not filled or out of date
- Changes in mood or personality
- Safety hazards — such as leaving the stove or iron on and walking away
- Confusion or memory loss*
*Our previous blog “Behavior and Personality Changes in Alzheimer’s” can provide you with some insight about behavioral signs your loved one is exhibiting — whether they are normal aging or signs of Alzheimer’s setting in.
If possible, plan to visit long enough that you will have plenty of time both to enjoy their company and get a thorough sense of how your loved one is faring physically and mentally. If you do notice some of the signs mentioned above, but the situation does not indicate imminent danger to your loved one, it is probably best to wait to bring it up until after the holiday visit is over. Consider discussing it with your siblings or other family members first. It may also be a good idea to talk to your parent’s friends, neighbors, fellow church goers, and doctor to determine if they have also seen signs of decline.
Follow-up steps for making an elder home care plan
A good next step is to plan a follow up visit to discuss your concerns with your loved one and identify ways you may be able to help. These are some action steps to consider in your follow up plan:
- Schedule an appointment for a medical check up during your visit to talk to your parent’s doctor and review medications.
- Go to a home medical equipment store to look for products that might make daily activities safer, such as shower chairs, raised toilet seats, and grab bars.
- Purchase and install technology that might help your loved one, such as a medical alert button, a “Jitterbug” cell phone, or a digital pill dispenser.
- Set up direct deposit and auto pay for recurring bills and/or hire a daily money manager to help your loved one manage their finances.
- Bring in a home health company to perform a home safety evaluation to identify potential concerns and help you decide what to do about them. Consider also having your loved one evaluated for physical therapy needs.
- Set up home delivered meals (often can be arranged through the Area Agency on aging) and/or a grocery delivery service.
- Look into local resources such as in home elder care or adult day care.
- Consider bringing in a professional care manager to help you make a plan to assist your loved one.
It is a good idea to introduce the less invasive action items on the list first, and ease your parent into the idea of getting assistance. Emphasize to your loved one that you are taking these steps to help ensure that they maintains their independence and are able to age in place long-term. Your loved one might be more willing to accept help if they know it gives you peace of mind.
About the Author: Pam Reynolds, CMC is the President and co-owner of Allegiance Aging Care Services. Pam has spent almost fifteen years working in senior care including long term care facilities and home health care. Her higher education is in Social Work, and she has been credentialed as both a certified Geriatric Care Manager and Licensed Assisted Living Administrator. Read more about Pam and her team of Aging Care Professionals here.