Changes in the ability to manage daily activities often occur slowly over time and go unnoticed until more obvious. Other changes are the direct result of a chronic or new medical diagnosis or accident. Family members are often the first to volunteer their time and energy to support the changing needs of loved ones. The decision to bring additional help into the home is often a struggle for the person requiring additional assistance and the family member(s) trying to balance new responsibilities while maintain their own personal obligations. For so many complex reasons, we struggle with knowing when a loved one needs in-home care.
Navigating life after 50 requires honest and open conversations and the ability to objectively recognize changes in lifestyle needs.
5 Signs Your Loved One and You May Benefit from In-Home Care.
#1 Recent health changes can lead to the need for more help in the home.
Surgery, development of a chronic illness, a fall or other muscular/skeletal injury, a stroke, the onset of a new health condition can be a sign that your parent or loved one needs more help. Also, when a current health condition worsens or requires additional monitoring it may be time to consider additional support in the home.
As your loved one’s health shifts and changes, responses, care, and treatment will need to shift as well. Perhaps your mom has been managing on her own very well with slight cognitive decline, but now she is forgetting to take her medication and missing appointments. Support with medication administration, scheduling appointments, and attending those appointments may be required to keep her safe. You can volunteer your services or consult with an Aging Life Care professional for guidance and recommendations as you consider the need for in-home care.
#2 Weight loss may be a sign your loved one needs in-home care.
If your parent is losing noticeable amounts of weight, this might be a sign he or she is forgetting to eat or has another illness or medication interaction that needs to be addressed.
Someone who suddenly loses weight could be suffering from the early stages of dementia or may even have suffered a mild stroke. Your dad might be forgetting to eat, or your mom’s Parkinson’s Disease may be causing her hands to ache, making cooking difficult. Weight loss can sneak up on families, especially if we do not see our loved on daily.
Paying attention to weight can help keep us on alert for other health issues as well. Start by talking to your parents’ primary care doctor to ensure there aren’t any health concerns and go from there.
In-home care might be the perfect choice for helping your parents cook the foods they love, shop for groceries and remember to eat regularly. In-home care can also provide another set of eyes to keep watch over your loved one and ensure there aren’t other problems hiding underneath the symptom of weight loss.
#3 Isolation is often a sign a loved one needs more assistance and can benefit from in-home care.
When seniors become isolated, they may also become lonely and depressed. Depression and other mental health issues exist in the older adult population. According to the World Health Organization(WHO), “Approximately 15% of adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental disorder.” Anxiety disorders affect nearly 4% of the elderly population, and depression affects 7%.
Some of the signs of depression in older adults include:
- Feeling sad, anxious, down, or empty most of the time. This feeling is persistent and just doesn’t go away.
- Irritability and restlessness. Your loved one may have trouble sitting still and is always moving about but in a restless, distracted manner.
- Talking and/or moving more slowly.
- Changes in appetite (eating more or less than normal).
- Loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities. Your grandmother no longer gardens or visits with her book club, for example. Or your father hasn’t played golf in months, which he used to love.
- Decreased energy or fatigue. Some illnesses can cause fatigue (such as MS, sleep apnea or fibromyalgia, to name a few), but depression and anxiety can also cause feelings of tiredness and lack of energy.
Depression and anxiety (as well as other mental health concerns) can cause social isolation, which can cause more health issues for older adults. We know social connection is linked to better overall health and quality of life, so if your loved one is feeling tired, sad or irritable, this connection may be overlooked or forgotten. An in-home caregiver can assist your loved one in getting out, remember appointments and driving to and from social events. Perhaps your mom or dad is no longer comfortable driving at night, so they skip the symphony, which they’ve loved for years. An in-home caregiver can do the driving or schedule a safe, reliable ride.
#4 Balance is an important marker for overall health. Balance issues may indicate in-home assistance will be helpful.
If your loved one has had several recent falls, it might be time for help. Many health conditions can cause or contribute to balance issues including:
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Heart issues
- BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo)
- Meniere’s Disease
Medications may also affect balance. When a parent’s balance is threatened, they become unstable doing daily chores and engaging in life. A kitchen rug becomes a hazard. Stairs might be an issue. Driving can be impacted.
Professionals like an Aging Life Care Professional or an occupational therapists can assess if a home is safe for someone who is dealing with balance issues and how to make it safer for your loved one. In-home caregivers can also provide support in daily tasks of living as well as provide transportation and support for treatment (physical therapy, doctor’s appointments, medication management). It is much better to prevent a fall, if possible, than to care for a loved one after a fall.
#5 Caregiver stress or burnout can be greatly relieved by in-home care, benefiting both the caregiver and the loved one.
Sometimes, the sign your loved one needs in-home help is a sign that you’reburned out or experiencing caregiver stress. The responsibilities of caregiving are physically and mentally demanding. Many family caregivers experience caregiver burnout. Signs of caregiver burnout include:
- Emotional Exhaustion – feelings of overload, no longer being able to continue and feeling emotionally drained after caregiving duties or as a result of caregiving.
- Depersonalization – this happens when we stop feeling empathy or attachment toward the person we’re providing care for.
- Loss of personal fulfillment – this can include lacking the feeling of fulfillment and joy caregiving can often bring. According to researchers (2019), “In the context of burnout, this positive sense of accomplishment tends to be reduced.” If you feel a lack of fulfillment with caregiving, you may be reaching burnout.
If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself, you might be experiencing burnout. Caregiver burnout isn’t good for you or your loved one. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with your life responsibilities and your caregiving responsibilities, you’re not alone. In-home care can provide the respite you need to recharge, and it can provide your loved one with another person in their support system.
As care needs change for our loved ones, we must pay attention to what has changed, how it has changed and how we can provide care to meet new needs. A consultation with an experienced Aging Life Care (ALCA) professional will provide a comprehensive evaluation from an expert who understandings the needs of older adults and their family members. They can provide the resources, experience, and solutions families need to successfully navigate the challenges of aging. ALCA professionals can also make in-home care referrals to help you find the right person to support your loved one’s needs.
Our loved one’s health and wellbeing matters. As they age, their needs change. Family caregivers Taking the care to put together a care plan and to discuss further care needs options with our loved ones in a vital before a crisis occurs.
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