About 7% of adults 65 and older need help with personal care from other people, according to data from the 2018 National Health Interview Survey. However, some of them don’t want to accept any outside help. And other times, they simply don’t know they need help.
Livestrong’s recent article entitled “7 Signs Your Aging Loved One Needs Care, and How to Help Them” says that this can make it hard for people to determine whether their loved one needs care. Here are a few signs that your aging mom or dad may need some extra help. They’re ranked from least to most serious — and what you can do to help.
- A Decline in Personal Hygiene. If your once-well-groomed mom doesn’t seem to be bathing or brushing her teeth regularly, it may be a sign that she needs help with personal care. Getting in and out of the bathtub or shower can be difficult or she may forget to bathe altogether. Schedule time to visit her two to three times a week for several weeks and assist her with bathing and other grooming tasks. You may need to speak with a doctor about hiring a home care aide.
- They’re Not Meeting with Friends. If mom isn’t at least making an effort to see her friends or do the social things she once enjoyed, it’s a signal that something could be wrong at home. If you’ve noticed she’s stopped calling you as often as she used to, and you have to make all the effort to communicate with her, mom may be withdrawing from others, too. See if mom will go to an audiologist, if you think she needs some extra help in the form of a hearing device. However, if you think she’s struggling with a condition like dementia or depression, talk to a doctor about the next steps.
- They’re Giving a Ton of Money to “Charities.” Financial abuse is common among seniors. In some instances, a family member, friend, or caregiver may be guilty of stealing their property or funds. It may also be a stranger who’s responsible for the exploitation, even subtly. If you believe that your parent is being financially exploited or abused, you can contact the police or Eldercare Locator, a public service program from the U.S. Administration on Aging or an elder law attorney. An experienced elder law attorney can create Powers of Attorney or a Trust to help protect your loved one.
- They’re Having Trouble Behind the Wheel. Ask the neighbors to report any odd or dangerous driving behavior they see. In addition to slowing reflexes and reaction times, seniors can also have chronic conditions such as cataracts, which limit their ability to see (especially at night), or arthritis, which can interfere with their ability to steer or push on the pedals. Those with dementia or Alzheimer’s may also not be able to make split-second decisions while they’re driving — say, if someone runs a stop sign or jumps out in front of their car. You can ask your parent to have their driving skills tested by the Department of Motor Vehicles or a driving specialist from the American Occupational Therapy Association to determine if they can still drive safely.
- They’ve Lost a Ton of Weight. If your parent looks like she’s dropping a lot of weight or her clothes are now too big on her, she may not be able to cook her own meals. Instead, she make be subsisting on snack food. In addition, poor-fitting dentures can cause people to stop eating solid foods. A senior may also have developed Alzheimer’s and keeps forgetting to eat, or may be dealing with an underlying condition, such as depression, that may be suppressing their appetite. If your mom isn’t able to cook anymore, help them sign up for a food delivery service or a meal delivery program, such as Meals on Wheels, or hire an in-home aide who can do the cooking. She if they need new dentures, and get her in to the dentist. However, if she has a condition like Alzheimer’s and is forgetting to eat or can no longer safely use the oven, that’s a more serious sign that they may not be able to live alone anymore. Having someone provide personal care assistance can help.
- They’re Having Difficulty Taking — or Remembering to Take — Their Medications. Try to get them a pill box for organization, or visit their home to monitor them when they take their medications. A home health aide may also be able to visit and help your parent administer the medication. If your mom requires more help taking their prescriptions, however, they may need more supervised care.
- They’ve Had a Fall While Alone. Falls are among the most serious concerns for seniors who live alone. However, there are a few ways to help prevent falls, and there are devices available, like Life Alert and GPS trackers. These let aging adults contact emergency personnel. It also may be necessary to have someone help with personal care assistance, especially bathing to reduce the likelihood of falls. When a person is at high-risk for a fall — or they start wandering around at night — that’s a sign they may need round-the-clock care.
Reference: Livestrong (Nov. 1, 2021) “7 Signs Your Aging Loved One Needs Care, and How to Help Them”