Guest blog by Max Gottlieb, content manager for Senior Planning
How to Tell if it’s Time for Professional Care
Maybe it’s something you’ve already talked about with your parents, but if you’re like most people, the Assisted Living conversation is one that you don’t want to have. Usually, long-term care isn’t even a thought until it’s too late. Many people wait until there is a sudden unexpected life change to begin thinking about care options and by that point, everything becomes much more complicated. The decision to make the transition is difficult for many families so below I’ll discuss some telltale signs that it may be time for some type of professional care setting—before a crisis strikes.
Inevitably, when our loved ones get older they begin to find it more difficult to perform the household chores they once took for granted. If you visit an elderly person’s home and notice clutter, dirty dishes, dirty laundry, or excess trash in a home that was previously well kept, it could be a sign the person is no longer able to care for him/herself. While seemingly innocuous, an unkempt house usually points to some type of cognitive impairment like dementia. If not a cognitive impairment, then a disheveled home could mean the person is too frail to remain safely alone.
Even more importantly than neglecting housework, is if your loved one has begun to neglect their personal care—this can be a very obvious sign that it’s time for professional supervision. Perhaps they have left their hair unwashed, they are wearing dirty clothing, or they have an unpleasant odor about them. A lack of personal hygiene indicates that your loved one needs help with their ADLs (activities of daily living). See here for a detailed list of ADLs. As people naturally become frailer, they sometimes need assistance with things they may not want to discuss, e.g. using the restroom, cleaning themselves, or showering. Climbing in or out of the shower can become a near impossibility due to loss of balance and strength. If a person is showering less frequently because they do not think they can safely do it, then there is an increased risk of falling when they do take a shower.
Before a fall does happen, be observant of whether your loved one seems more frail or fragile looking. Do you notice a significant loss in mobility, balance, or strength? As we get older our chronic illnesses may prevent us from conducting everyday activities. Certain signs include trouble walking up stairs, getting up from the sofa, or difficulty getting in and out of a car. If you notice your loved one is unable to keep their balance or stay standing for an extended period of time, they may not be safe to live on their own. No matter what state of health your elderly loved one is in, fall proofing a home is extremely important; click the link for a detailed list of helpful tips.
Along with remaining aware of frailty, be aware of your loved one’s weight and eating habits. If your loved one has lost weight since the last time you saw them it could mean they are skipping meals unintentionally. Forgetting to eat could either be the beginning signs of dementia or simply the fact that it is too difficult to make it to the grocery store and cook. Grocery shopping and cooking are a few of the most important ADLs. Once we lose the ability to perform these tasks for any reason, it is no longer safe to live alone.
Another important question to ask is whether or not your loved one would be able to seek medical attention if they were to become sick. The last thing you want is for an illness to go untreated or a chronic condition to be ignored. Look whether or not they have expired medication around the home or unfilled prescriptions. Expired medication and unfilled prescriptions are usually signs that your loved one is unable to manage medications on their own. Mismanaged medication is a big sign that you need to either hire an in-home caregiver or make the choice to send them to an assisted living center.
If you think your loved one should be in assisted living there are many resources available to help you. Ask a health professional such as a doctor or a medical social worker what they think is best for your loved one. They not only have experience with many of the facilities in your area, but should also be able direct you to the right level of care.
Make sure you make your concerns known to your loved one before making any decisions so they don’t feel attacked. It helps to make a decision with your loved one and planning ahead does pay off, literally. The more your loved one can do on their own, the more affordable their care will be so it’s never too early to start planning for long-term care.
Max Gottlieb is the content manager of Senior Planning in Phoenix, Arizona. Senior Planning is a free service and since 2007 has helped many Arizona seniors plan for long-term care, find care services, and apply for state and federal benefits.
Thanks Max for writing this article about when or if it might be the right time to consider professional care at home, assisted or residential living for a loved one; parent, partner, relative or close friend. With a relative in this position at present, personally, I found the pointers and links really helpful.
Thanks to Borough Care Stockport for the lovely image of residents enjoying a knitting circle. Borough Care, with residential and dementia care homes around Stockport are constantly enriching social care through environments, social activities and engagement training for their carers.
In the background, Happy Days Dementia Workshop’s meaningful wall art: Market Scenes
See more wall art to prompt conversations here: Meaningful Wall Art