11 Signs It May Be Time For In Home Health Care
The decision to assist an aging adult with moving out of their present home is a very complicated one – both practically and emotionally. Above all else, you want the individual to be well and safe. But how can you be confident about whether or not the current circumstances indicate that your loved one shouldn’t be living alone any longer?
Although each situation is unique, taking a close look at the following 11 signs can provide you with some valuable information for helping make your decision.
1. Big Picture Signs That It May Be Time For Assisted Living
Always keep in mind the big red flags. There are certain situations that make things more obvious that it is a good idea to begin to think about making alternative living arrangements for your loved one.
Recent close calls or accidents. Was your loved one involved in a fender bender (or something worse), experience a medical scare or take a fall? Who responded to the situation and how long did that take? Of course accidents happen, however as individuals grow older, the chances increase for them to keep happening.
A slow recovery. How was a recent illness (a bad cold or flu, for example) weather by the individual you care for? Was she or he willing and able to seek medical care if it was needed, or did their cold last winter turn into untreated bronchitis?
The person has a chronic healthy condition that is getting worse. Progressive problems like congestive heart failure, dementia and COPD may decline precipitously or gradually, however either way, having them means that your love one is going to need even more help over time.
Having an increasingly hard time dealing with activities of daily living (ADLs) as well as instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). IADLs and ADLs are the necessary skills that are needed for living independently. They include things like managing medications, doing laundry, cooking, shopping and dressing. Social workers, doctors and other geriatric professionals evaluate these as part of an overall functional assessment. This is one way of getting an expert’s opinion on the situation. Sometimes difficulties with IADLs and ADLS can be remedied by the person having in home health care and other forms of assistance at home.
2. Up Close Signs That It May Be Time For Assisted Living
Hug your loved one. You can’t always see clues from a distance, particularly when you don’t see your loved one every day. There may be things you can learn through touch.
Noticeable weight loss. Does the individual feel thinner? Are her clothes loose, or does his belt have extra notches on it? Weight loss may be caused by many different conditions, ranging from cancer to depression. An individual may lose weight due to having a hard time remembering to eat or cook or having difficulties getting to the grocery store. Watch their meal preparation skills and check the refrigerator.
Appears more frail. Does anything feel different about the individual’s stature and strength when you hug them? Is your loved one able to get out of a chair easily? Or does he or she seem unable to balance or unsteady? Compare your observations to the last time you saw your loved one.
Noticeable weight gain. Some of the common causes of weight gain may include dementia (when a person doesn’t remember eating, she or he may continue snacking and having meals all day), diabetes, or injuries that slow a person down. Someone having money problems might choose more bread, dried pasta and package goods and fewer fresh foods.
Strange body odor. A close hug might unfortunately reveal changes to the person’s hygiene habits. This can be caused by physical ailments, depression or memory problems.
Changes in appearance. See if the person’s makeup and hair look all right? Is the individual wearing clean clothes? If someone who usually wears crisply iron shirts is now wearing a stained sweatshirt it might be due to lacking in dexterity managing buttons or the person might not have enough strength to manage an iron and ironing board. A man who was formerly clean-shaven who has unkempt beard now might be forgetting to shave or forgotten how.
3. Social Signs That It May Be Time For Assisted Living
Consider the individual’s social connections realistically. With age, social circles have a tendency to shrink,which may have safety and health implications.
Signs of having active friendships. Find out if your loved is still visiting the neighbors, getting together for outings or lunches with friends, or participating in group events and religious activities. Does your loved one keep a calendar with their appointments or talk about others? In older adults lacking in companionship is often associated with heart problems and depression. If friends have moved away or died, it can be lifesaving to move somewhere that has other people around to socialize with.
Signs of your loved one cutting back on interests and activities. Have they abandoned a favorite hobby. Have they given up a club membership or stopped using their library card? There are numerous reasons why people cut back on things, however dropping everything and not showing an interest in hardly everything is a big red flag that the person may be suffering from depression.
Spends days not ever leaving the house. It can sometimes happen due to the individual no longer being able to drive to being afraid of taking public transportation without having someone to go with them. Although many older adults are afraid of being “locked up” in a retirement home, many of these facilities provide outings on a regular basis that can help keep them more active and mobile, instead of less.
Is there someone checking in with your loved one on a regular basis? Will your loved one consider a daily calling service, personal alarm system or home safety alarm system?
Plan in place for worst-case scenario. If a disaster occurs like a flood, earthquake or fire, is somebody on standby to help? Is the plan understood by your loved one?
4. Money Signs That It May Be Time For Assisted Living
Search through your loved one’s mail. It can often provide clues to how the person is managing their money, which can be an early warning sign of having cognitive problems.
Piles of mail in different places. If lots of mails is found scattered about it can raise concerns over how insurance bills and other issues are being managed. (Also, piles of mail can also be a tripping hazard potentially.)
Unopened personal mail. We all skip junk mail, but most people don’t ignore hand-addressed letters from people we know.
The At-Home Tests For Signs It’s Time For Assisted Living
Doctors, social workers, nurses, and even occupational and physical therapists get together to establish when an individual cannot complete activities of daily living safely and effectively. It’s usually when mom or grandma have had a stroke, end up in the hospital, and the medical team makes a decision that a loved one needs assisted living or in-home care.
Not everyone ends up in the hospital for an evaluation, though. Many just show subtle changes, leaving loved ones to wonder if it is time to send mom or dad into assisted living.
5. An Unofficial Driving Test
Let dad behind the wheel of the car. Be an observer, and do not interrupt his efforts. Does he put on his seatbelt, like he has been doing for the past 40 years? Or, is he suddenly forgetting seatbelts, turn signals, all while his attention now is distracted? Those types of changes may signify outward sign of problems. It can be dangerous to take him out on the road.
6. Many New Piles Of Clutter
If mom or dad have always been fairly neat, or at least controlled the chaos, this next trick is simple. Just observe how their home looks now as compared to “normal” periods of time. Are there piles of stuff everywhere, when they used to be neat?
Are items in appropriate places? Or, is there a trumpet in the kitchen sink? Is there an electric shaver in the freezer? These sound bizarre and almost laughable until it becomes clear that dad deliberately put them there with the intention to use them. Look for other clues that point to the confusion of facts, of how to use items, and where they belong.
Invite them to help you prepare a meal. Only, give them commands, such as “please chop the zucchini”. Do not give them hints about where to find the items or the steps they need to take. Instead, observe them while they work. Do they go to the bookshelf in search of a zucchini, or do they go into the fridge, bottom drawer? Do they get out a knife? Or, do they take the electric shaver out of the freezer to chop the zucchini? They are dangerous if the latter is happening. That’s why they need to go to assisted living. It’s because they cannot cook or take medication safely any longer.
Go shopping with them, and let them do the work. Observe them. Do they buy what you need to make the zucchini souffle or do they purchase 15 bags of moth balls instead?
Mail Call! Scam Alerts
They can become their own worst enemy when they start to show signs of confusion, dementia, or Alzheimer’s. That’s because they may have moments of clarity mixed with child-like belief in over-the-top fantasies. So, if a “nice young kid” stops by to offer to clean the house, they may actually get “cleaned out”, or robbed. They might easily part with money for fraudulent scams that pose as charities even.
Let’s Get Physical!
In some instances, it’s not so much the mind that’s going, but new physical limitations are holding them back. For instance, blindness or mobility problems might impact mom’s ability to bathe, dress or feed herself. She may have difficulty keeping the house neat or hygienic because of a bum hip, for instance.
There are many levels of care to offer up before getting to the spectrum of skilled nursing care. Some elderly people would rather stay in their homes. All they require is a home health professional or certified nursing assistant to come in to help them clean, cook, dress, shop and bathe.
Others might opt to put their loved one in an assisted living residence apartment. They can live there, socialize, but their meals, cleaning, and medication administration are provided. When or if they need to step up the care, there’s full-time nursing care.
7. Signs Around The House That It May Be Time For In Home Health Care
Search the living areas. At times it can be difficult to see the most obvious signs because we have become so accustomed to them.
Lots of clutter. Being unable to throw anything out might be a sign of a physical or neurological issue. It is obviously more worrisome if a neatnik turns into a terrible slob. Pet toys or paper scattered over the floor can be a potential tripping hazard.
Signs of inadequate housekeeping. One common sign of dementia is spills that have not been cleaned up. It shows that the individual is lacking in follow-through to keep tidy. Watch for other signs of slackness such as thick dust, bathroom mold and cobwebs. Physical limitations might mean that your loved one is in need of help with housekeeping or a living situation where these things are take care of for her or him.
Bathroom clutter and grime. One common scenario is that your loved one tries to tidy up the main living areas but forgets about or neglects that bathroom. Or maybe the guest bathroom is clean but not the bathroom used by the persona all of the time. This may give you a truer picture of way your loved one is actually keeping up.
8. Plant Care and Pet Care Signs That It May Be Time For Assisted Living
Make sure you check to see how other living things are doing. Along with self-care is being able to take care of plants and pets.
Plants that are either gone, dead or dying. Most us have plants go brown on us at times. Watch for any chronic neglect, particularly in a former plant-lover’s house.
Animals that do not appear to be well tended. Some common problems include dead fish floating in a fish tank, cat litter boxes that have not been changed in a while, and dogs that have long nails. Other red flags are underfeeding, overfeeding and poor grooming.
9. Home Maintenance Signs That It May Be Time For Assisted Living
Take a walk around the yard. Lack of yard maintenance may be signs that your loved one is don’t well at home alone any longer.
Signs of neglect. Watch for discolored ceilings or siding that may indicate there is a leak, dirty windows, broken fences or windows or gutters full of leaves.
Newspapers in bushes. Are there newspapers being delivered to the house that are being ignored? At times the ones that can be seen in the driveway will be picked up but not the ones out in the yard.
Mail collecting in the mailbox. This indicates that your loved one isn’t getting the mail on a regular basis.
10. Get Help Searching For Signs That It May Be Time For Assisted Living
Ask others for input who know your loved one to get an even fuller and better picture of reality. It isn’t nosy when you gentle probe others for their opinions. You are being proactive, concerned and loving.
Input from people in your loved one’s social circle. Speak to close relatives and old friends to find out what their sense is of how the individual is faring. Listen for signs that the person isn’t getting out much (“She quit our book club.” “She doesn’t come over to visit anymore.”). Pay close attention to any comments indicating ongoing concerns (“Did he have his heart test yet?”).
Medical insight. The primary doctor of your loved one, when you have the appropriate permissions, may share their concerns regarding their patient’s safety at home – or they might be able to suggest where a home assessment can be obtained or alleviate some of your concerns.
Get a second opinion. A geriatric care manager or social worker visit the homes of older adults and do informal evaluations. Although initially your loved one might resist the idea of a complete stranger checking up on them, try “prescribing” it. Some individuals will share their vulnerabilities or doubts with an experienced, sympathetic stranger that they are reluctant to admit to their family or children.
11. Caregivers’ Signs That It May Be Time For Assisted Living
Keep in mind that some information that you gather is intangible – it involves the stress levels, emotions and feelings of everyone who is involved in the situation.
How you are doing. Although the decision for remaining in one’s home isn’t mainly about you – the caregiver, grandchild, daughter or son – your own level of exhaustion might be a good gauge of the decline in the ability of an older adult to care for herself or himself. It can require a lot of care coordination or hands-on support to keep someone at home, and that is very time-consuming. If the care that your loved one needs is wearing you out, or your children or spouse are feeling the strain from your care giving activities, then those are major signs that it is time for you to being looking for different options.
The emotional state of your loved one. Of course safety is critical, but emotional well-being is as well. If a person living alone is increasingly lonely or full of anxiety, then that might tip the scales toward moving that is not solely based on safety and health reasons.
If your loved one has community connections, a close neighborhood and full life, and appears to be thriving, then it could be worth exploring in home health care options before raising the stress level of your loved one by encouraging them to move from their beloved home.
However, if your loved one shows signs that it is a strain to live alone,it might be time to sit down and talk to them. Try broaching the subject in a neutral way when it comes to where they should live. You might discover that your loved one has the same fears for their current as well as future security and safety that you do Ask your loved one what they fear the most about staying and about moving before you start sharing your concerns about what you think needs to be done.