While we may not want to think about it, eventually even the most active and healthy parent may need some type of homecare. Sometimes it happens in a way that is obvious to us, perhaps there is an injury or a surgery or the sudden onset of a medical condition. More likely however, is that it kind of sneaks up on us (and our parents).
How do we know if our aging parents need help, much less actual homecare? It can be even harder to tell if we don’t physically live close to them. Older people who want to be able to remain independent and age-in-place most often won’t tell even their children if they need help. For more information about aging-in-place, click here.
4 Categories of Signs Your Parent May Need Homecare
You’re Noticing Highly Visible Signs
There can be a number of signs that are hard to miss. These will likely be your first indicators that your parent may need professional homecare:
- If your parent has had a car accident or you notice issues with their driving. If your parent still drives, ride with them and be objective about their driving. Is it safe?
- Are they recovering from an injury or illness? This sounds obvious, but homecare is the best option for someone who needs to recover in the home. Short term care is a terrific option.
- Are they unsteady as they move, walk or stand? If their movement is hindered, unstable or unsafe, homecare is critical.
- Do you notice bruises or wounds that they don’t usually have or can’t explain? This could mean they are falling or having depth perception issues that are causing them to trip, stumble or bump into things.
- Have there been incidents or evidence of bathroom accidents? Is there a scent of urine on your parent, or you see soiled clothing or bedclothes?
- Are you noticing that your parent has “forgotten” to take medication more than a few times? Or that they have mixed or doubled up on meds (again, more than once). The key here is to look for a trend, as everyone can forget every now and then.
- Are they struggling with the normal, daily activities of life? Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) include things like shopping and cooking for themselves, home care, personal grooming (including bathing and dressing) and taking medications.
You’re Noticing a Change in Personal Care
A change in personal care can be a highly noticeable thing or many very subtle things. Issues to look out for:
- Lessoning in good grooming habits. Have they always taken good physical care of themselves and now they’re either choosing not to or “forgetting” to shower?
- A change in personal appearance. Once taking care of their appearance daily, they’re now living day-to-day in the same outfit or pajamas.
- Weight loss or weight gain. It’s easy to understand that weight loss might be a matter of illness or the inability to shop for or prepare meals. Either weight loss or weight gain could also be a sign of something deeper, such as depression or feelings of isolation.
You’re Noticing a Change in Overall Behavior
While everyone has good days and bad days, overall mood can be an indicator that something else is going on:
- Emotional state. Mood changes, when extreme can be a sign of a number of things that should be discussed with a doctor or health care professional.
- Increased confusion or frustration. As we age, it’s common to have moments of “why did I walk into this room?”. You may notice that your parent is having those moments often or is not understanding directions for self care, such as taking medications. Increased confusion could also impact safety issues in the home, such as under or over medicating, leaving the stove on, not locking the doors at night, etc.
- Losing interest in previous preferred activities. Perhaps they always enjoyed a certain activity or hobby and they no longer seem to be interested.
- Wandering, extreme or ongoing boredom or dangerous behavior. Of course, if you notice dangerous behavior, speak with a medical professional immediately, but even something as small as ongoing boredom or lethargy, or a “blue” mood that persists could be an indicator of something more serious.
- Inappropriate behavior. We often think of this as visible, noticeably bad social behavior, but it could be something as small as not wearing the correct clothing for the weather (sweaters, boots and scarves in the heat or summer clothing in winter time).
You’re Noticing a Change in Care of the Home
Keeping in mind that everyone tends to their home in different ways, look for uncharacteristic behavior when it comes to personal home care:
- Are they keeping up with their usual cleanliness of the home? It’s normal to fall behind during times of stress and high levels of activity, but in a “normal” week or month are they able to manage the home care?
- Is there fresh food in the cupboards and fridge? If you’re finding a lot of expired food or moldy items in the cupboards or fridge, this could be an indicator of other issues, such as confusion, lack of interest in eating or inability to meal prep or feed themselves.
- Hoarding. Taking into account their level of lifelong behavior with items such as keep sakes, has this changed recently? It can be common for elderly people to start hanging on to old or broken items that they deem to have value. Again, compare their current behavior against how they have lived all their lives to determine if an issue exists.
- Financial signs. Are there calls from bills collectors or utility companies indicating that bills haven’t been paid? Prior to this, you may even notice bills laying around the house and when asked, perhaps your parent sloughs it off or says that it’s “nothing to worry about”.
Food For Thought
If there seem to be many clues that your aging parent may need professional homecare, there are. Every individual is different and may exhibit different signs of aging. One good rule to remember is, “Is the behavior uncharacteristic for this person?”. Make notes when you notice these items and keep a list of concerns. Of course, one of your best resources for discussing homecare concerns is your parent’s doctor.
For more ideas on how to assess and help your aging parent, have a look at this article from AARP.
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Do you have questions about how you can better support your loved one while they age in place in South Florida or regarding homecare in general? Please contact CareGivers of America here: Contact or call us toll free: 800-342-4197
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