Even for those of us who have devoted our lives to living a healthy life, strength and flexibility decrease with age, as does the strength of our bones and our metabolism.
This makes us prone to weight gain and the negative health effects that come along with it.
This decline actually begins in our early 30’s but is barely noticeable. Once we hit middle age, we start to notice that our back and joints hurt more than they used to.
Once we reach our 50’s, we start to suffer from forgetfulness, diminished senses (reduced eyesight and hearing necessitating glasses and hearing aids), and from age-related diseases such as diabetes, heart problems and high blood pressure.
We may become afflicted by illnesses that can limit our mobility and make it necessary for us to use walkers, canes or wheelchairs.
While this is going on and we are watching our loved ones grow older, it is very difficult to make a determination as to whether or not they really have specific needs requiring caregiver services or merely need a little additional help to get by.
To help you recognize some of the signs of someone who needs help, a complete assessment of your loved one’s situation is in order. Here are some of the tell-tale signs to look for:
- Not much food in the house, or food past the expiration date in the refrigerator
- Dirty dishes always in the sink
- Lack of personal grooming, body odor and/or bad breath
- Their house or apartment is dirty and unkempt
- Unaware of what medication is to be taken, or when it should be taken.
- Missing important medical appointments
- Unpaid bills, especially if there are late fees attached to those bills
- Wearing the same clothes over and over again
- Showing confusion or depression
- Bruises on their body from falls
As you look at this list, the one thing you will realize is that you may not be around your loved one enough to determine if these warning signs are prevalent. For this, you may need some advice or assistance from those who are close to them, whether that being a spouse, friends or neighbors.
To see if it is safe for them to live on their own, a geriatric assessment is in order. There are agencies that you can pay to make this assessment, which takes the emotion out of the decisions that you have to make, but unless you have the money to invest, you will need to take a look at the situation yourself.
Instinctively, you will know whether or not your loved one needs help and if they can live on their own.
After doing the assessment, you will have several options as to how to care for your loved one:
1) Remaining in their home. This is obviously the choice your parents would want, but you need to decide together if this is practical or not. If you have done the assessment and realize that your loved one cannot be on their own for safety reasons, as I had to when dealing with my mother’s situation, then this is not an option.
2) Living with you. This is by far the cheapest option available if your loved one cannot live on their own. The advantages are not only economical, but you gain the peace-of-mind of knowing that they are close to you.
They may even be able to help you with chores or offer you the option of having a live-in babysitter.
And while this may be the best option, this could also turn out to be a disaster, if you feel that they are encroaching on ‘your space’ and old personality conflicts start to arise again. So be very careful to weigh the pros and cons of this option.
3) Assisted living. The premise behind this option is that your loved one is living in a home-like setting and is on their own except for the services that they choose to have taken care of. They can be provided meals, laundry, cleaning services and transportation, but assisted living facilities do not perform medical care.
Because the services vary greatly, you must investigate potential assisted living facilities to determine which one offers the services that match the needs of your loved one.
4) Nursing homes. If it is necessary for your loved one to become a resident, this will in all likelihood be the last place they live. They live there because they need skilled nursing care 24 hours a day, cannot live on their own and the medical conditions they suffer from are too serious to allow for home care.
While most nursing homes perform similar services, the quality of the service varies greatly among nursing homes. To that end, I have created a video on how to assess a nursing home to assist you in this situation.