Knowing when and how to address an aging relative’s future can be difficult. But there are signs that will show you when your loved one is struggling.
As a family member, you can be first to see when your loved ones are no longer managing their life tasks. You can observe, discreetly, over a period of weeks, or even months, during visits and phone calls.
Increasing communication is the first thing that will help you assess your loved one’s ability to manage their life. If you live nearby, make it a point to drop in at least once a week. Call them during the week to chat for a few minutes. Keep it casual; do not make the conversations seem intrusive. Share the highlights of your own life, but keep most of the conversation focused on them.
Use the following list to help identify their needs and safety:
Review their living conditions:
- Is your loved one dressed for the day, or still in night clothes?
- Are there piles of dirty laundry in the house?
- Does it appear that your loved one is bathing regularly? Do you smell body odor?
- Does the house look clean and cared for, or does it look neglected?
- Does the home smell clean or can you detect rotten food or other unpleasant odors?
- Is there old or rotting food in the refrigerator and in the cabinets?
- Is there sufficient food in the house?
Ask them some questions:
- When did they last eat and what did they have?
- Did they prepare it or was it from a restaurant or neighbor?
- Can they tell you what their plans are for the day or week ?
- Can they tell you what they did yesterday?
- Are they able to schedule appointments and keep them on time?
Look for changes in their social life or interests:
- Does your loved one meet with friends or groups regularly to socialize? If so, when was their last meeting? Who was there? What did they do?
- What are their interests and hobbies? Have those changed recently? Have they lost interest in doing them?
Assess their driving abilities:
- If your family member drives, where do they go, and how often do they get out?
- Do you notice any new scratches or dents in their car?
- Is there unexplained damage to the parking area?
- Has your loved one been in any accidents?
- Are you comfortable riding along while your loved one drives?
Notice their physical safety:
- Has your loved one slipped, fallen, been hospitalized, or visited the ER regularly or frequently? Are they concerned about health problems? Do they have bruises they cannot explain?
- Is your loved one having difficulty getting up, sitting down, or performing basic household tasks? Are they able to walk and move about without losing balance?
- Do they remember to take medications as directed? Do they have a method for remembering when to take their pills?
- Can they afford their prescriptions? Do they get refilled as needed?
Review their financial security:
- Is your loved one paying bills on time? Do they have a master list of all their monthly payments?
- Does your loved one pay bills mostly online, by check, or cash?
- Are there stacks of unopened mail and bills sitting around or in the mailbox? Are there signs of bounced checks, calls or letters from bill collectors, or late payment notices?
- Has your loved one been contacted by questionable people demanding payment or trying to gain personal information?
Determine their emotional and mental well-being
- What is the general mental state of your loved one?
- Have you noticed any changes in their energy or activity levels, or in their moods?
- Does your loved one express unusual feelings of sadness, excessive worry, loneliness, or hopelessness?
Begin a conversation for the their future
- What are your loved one’s long term plans for growing older?
- Is there a Will?
- Do they have a Durable Power of Attorney in place?
- Is there a Living Will?
- Do they have An Advanced Directive?
- Do they have a lawyer who could answer some of these questions?
Above all, the family needs to be compassionate and loving with an aging member. Concern for their well-being should be top priority at all times.
Once the family recognizes there’s a need for some help, they can meet with the loved one in a comfortable, relaxed gathering and share their concerns. The focus should be on loving and supporting the aging family member throughout this difficult conversation.
During the conversation note some of the areas of concern you’ve seen, but be sure to clarify to your loved one that they are still in control, and have a say in what happens next.
If the decision is made for your family member to stay in their home by providing some additional help, be sure to schedule a consultation with an in-home caregiver.
Even if family members believe they can provide all the help needed, it’s important to know what else is available for backup help, or if the needs increase beyond the family’s capacity.
If you have questions about in-home care giving, or are ready to schedule a free, in home, consultation in the Tyler, Texas area, please call us.
Home-Aid Caregivers, Ltd. at (903) 533-1300.