Our perpetually mobile society has rapidly changed how families live – while we once stayed within close proximity to our relatives, we now frequently move and may only see family members a couple of times each year. This can make it challenging to watch over loved ones who are aging and want to remain at home. Often times, it takes extended periods of time to identify when an individual is struggling at home, but there are several indicators that they may require more home support. In the following, we will discuss five signs that care is needed and how to take steps to getting your loved one the assistance they require.
According to the WHO, the number of people 60 years and older will increase from 900 million to 2 billion between 2015 and 2050, constituting 22% of the world’s population. The biggest health issues of our aging population are not communicable diseases, but are heart disease, stroke, and chronic lung disease. These are illnesses that an individual can live with for years, managing symptoms and disease processes through the assistance of medical staff and personal support. Other causes of disability are chronic pain, depressive disorders, dementia, and arthritis. While these disorders may make it difficult to live at home alone, are much easier to cope with when assistance is available. As individuals age and their health changes, so does how they function in their home. Flights of stairs up to bedrooms or down to basements may be insurmountable, driving a car to the local supermarket may be anxiety-ridden, and sorting mail to pay bills may be too confusing. Here are five signs that care is needed to when looking to improve your loved one’s life at home:
Five Signs that Care is Needed:
- An empty fridge or a fridge full of spoiled food: Meal preparation requires many steps, from driving to the store and purchasing the food, bringing it into the house, putting it away, making the meal, and cleaning the fridge of food that has gone bad. An empty fridge or the presence of spoiled food can indicate that it is too difficult to drive to replenish the fridge, due to low energy, anxiety about driving, or simply not remembering to eat. Often times weight loss will accompany depression, as the individual is no longer interested in eating, even when it comes to their favorite foods.
- Mail piling up on the counter and lapses in paying bills: Dementia often results in people not being able to track linear periods of time, which makes it difficult to know when to pay bills, even if they are looking at a marked calendar. Additional junk mail and potential scams can be confused with phone and electric bills, making the simple act of sorting through mail a confusing and overwhelming experience.
- Wearing the same clothes repeatedly and an unkempt appearance: Doing laundry can be particularly daunting due to its physical nature. People who are easily fatigued or have chronic pain (especially back pain) are less likely to engage in self-care, so may wear the same clothes for days at a time, stop showering, and have other personal hygiene issues.
- “Unknown” new damages to their car: Slower reflexes, confusion, poor vision, and many other factors can negatively impact the ability to drive, which will often result in minor “fender benders”. New bumps and scratches on the car, which the individual cannot account for (they may not even realize they have hit other cars or objects), is a big indicator that driving has become too difficult.
- Isolation and withdrawal from favorite activities: Missing usual engagements can be due to a variety of reasons, from not having access to transportation, to not understanding scheduled times, to losing interest due to depression. Hopelessness, listlessness, and discontent are all feelings that should be addressed immediately.
While these events can be alarming, it is important to address them immediately, as these issues do not typically develop overnight. Something as simple as having a home care visit, for a couple of hours a day, two to three days a week, can prevent these issues from turning into major problems. A home care agency (such a Nurses With Heart Home Care), can have an aide visit to help with grocery shopping, prepare a meal, and assist with bathing and grooming. They can drive the individual to their weekly bowling game and alleviate the anxiety of finding transportation, driving a car, and figuring out exactly what time they are meeting with their friends. Home care aides can also assist with light housekeeping, tackling those pile of laundry and recycling junk fliers and setting aside important mail to be addressed.
While many individuals are unsure about having a new person in their home, this is quickly offset by the needed assistance and knowledge that someone is their not only for their support, but for their safety as well. By being aware of these five signs that care is needed, family members can identify issues and quickly take steps to provide the assistance their loved one needs.
For more information on types of home care that Nurses With Heart provides, check our Services page and for more resources for families caring for aging individuals, check out the resources at the National Council on Aging.