We all like to believe that we are in tune with our family. But how much do you know about your aging mom or dad’s daily life? If senior loved ones are still living alone, here are a few things to look for that may indicate that they are ready for a helping hand, and ways you can step in and enhance their quality of life.
Seniors may need help if:
Home maintenance has fallen behind (e.g., grass remains uncut, appliances broken, light bulbs shot but unchanged)
Clothing is unwashed
Hygiene has become an issue
They have experienced a sudden change in mood
Bills aren’t being paid
There is unexplained bruising
They often miss healthcare appointments
They have gained or lost noticeable weight
You find scratches and dents their vehicle (if still driving)
They get confused when washing dishes, making phone calls, and performing other familiar tasks
If your loved one’s health, safety, and happiness has become compromised, it’s time to begin talking about care options. When he or she wishes to remain at home, there are plenty of resources that can help. From hiring a home health aide to taking classes to keep the mind active, you can help honor your senior’s wish of aging in place.
Community matters – Community organizations are an invaluable resource for seniors who live alone. If seniors are feeling isolated, involvement with a community group may help. Many offer social activities that can boost self-esteem and encourage them to take better care of themselves.
In-house help – A home health aide is an individual who may come in on a regular schedule or live in the home with your senior. He or she will assist with daily living tasks such as cooking and cleaning along with hygiene and giving medication. A home health aide is an excellent option for seniors who do not want to enter a long-term care facility.
Occasional assistance – Health care assistance is not the only type of help a senior may need. The National Aging in Place Council includes real estate services, financial planning, insurance, and elder law among services that can help a senior stay at home.
End-of-life care – Death is the inevitable end to all life, and at some point, transitional care may be needed. The National Institute on Aging describes end-of-life care as that which offers medical care and support in the days, weeks, and months prior to death. This may include hospice services and palliative care.
Once you have determined that your elder needs assistance, you must approach him or her from a place of love. No one, and especially not someone who has raised children, fought in the military, and/or been self-sufficient for decades, wants to acknowledge they are no longer able to care for themselves. It may be wise to consult with friends, family, and other individuals who can offer advice on the subject. Be prepared for some pushback and consider bringing in an elder mediator to smooth things over. Remember, it’s not about you being right or forcing your loved one into submission, it’s about keeping him or her safe and healthy. Sometimes, an impartial third party is the best person to bridge the gap between you and your loved one.
It’s a tough conversation to have, and it’s even harder watching your beloved family member become increasingly fragile with age. However, by finding ways to help as issues arise, you can help your mom, dad, grandparent, or other elderly family member maintain independence and sense of integrity for as long as possible. All it takes is a keen eye and willingness to step in when help is needed.