Signs a senior loved one’s needs are changing

Right at Home John Headshot (2) (Small)By John Baldwin, FLT News Columnist-

Dad sometimes leaves the garage door up all night with his keys in the car. Mom stays in the same outfit for days and limits her bathing. Uncle Henry’s desk is stacked with piles of bills, health insurance letters and bank statements — all unopened. At first, these behaviors seemed a bit out of the ordinary, but now you are beginning to wonder if something is shifting in your senior loved ones’ health and daily care needs.

The warning signs of when aging affects a family member may be gradual at first, but can quickly cause larger challenges. If you bring up the subject to your older adult, he or she may just brush off the topic by stating, “I’m fine. There is no need to worry.” Recognizing true limitations of aging is not always clear-cut, but it may be time to seek outside help if you notice these differences in older adults:

  • Atypical behavior, such as increased agitation, speaking loudly or little talking at all.
  • Communication and relationship changes with family and friends.
  • Disengagement from social interactions.
  • Neglect of personal care.
  • Poor nutrition, or weight loss or gain.
  • Forgetfulness evidenced by unwashed laundry, scorched or dirty cookware, or piles of unopened mail.
  • Missing important appointments and events.
  • Financial mismanagement, such as unusual purchases or unpaid bills.
  • Spoiled food that accumulates in the home and is not tossed out.
  • Noticeable smell of urine or feces in the home.
  • A growing collection of nicks and dents in the car.
  • Confusion and uncertainty with accomplishing regular tasks.
  • Difficulties with balance, walking or mobility.

To help you better understand your loved one’s limitations and whether it’s time to enlist the help of a professional caregiver, it’s important to know where to start and how to navigate the questions and concerns.

For many families, there comes a time for ‘the conversation’ with their senior loved one about needing help with everyday activities. Fortunately, it’s a relief to know that experienced home healthcare professionals understand which aging and health changes warrant caregiver help and when and how to take more purposeful steps to support your aging loved one.

More than 16 percent of the American population is caring for someone aged 50 years or older, and almost three-fourths of adult caregivers rely on assistance from family members, friends or neighbors. No one family caregiver can do it all. As your older loved one’s condition begins to flux, here are suggestions for helping you move from guarded concern to appropriate action:

  • Document changes you notice in your senior loved one. Are there specific tasks he/she can no longer perform? Is your loved one confused about medication dosages, or does he/she let prescriptions expire or not fill them at all? Accompany your senior to doctor appointments so you can hear the medical information firsthand and speak directly with your loved one’s physician.
  • Involve siblings and significant decision-makers. It is important to share the facts of your loved one’s care needs with your siblings and your elder’s medical and legal power of attorney representatives. If relationship tensions of self-interests exist, now is the time to put these differences aside and focus on what’s best for your aging senior.
  • Plan for a direct, yet loving conversation with your older loved one. Think about what your family hopes to accomplish through your dialogue with your senior. Appoint someone to lead the conversation. Use open-ended questions. Be sensitive to not overwhelm or ambush your aging loved one. Listen without judging or doling out advice.
  • Stay flexible on next steps. Your family may need continued conversations over time to determine the best care for your senior. The time in-between will allow for gathering additional resources or delegating care responsibilities.

As you observe signs of your loved one’s needs changing and plan to talk with your senior, Right at Home’s RightConversationsSM is a practical guide of tips and ideas for effective communication in the family caregiving process. RightConversations supplemental tools include the Information Journal to help gather the senior adult’s personal, medical, insurance and financial information; the Communication Planner to record details to include in conversations with your aging loved one; and the Family Action Planner to organize care assistance needed and track delegated tasks for family members or service providers. These tools are available at http://www.rahnwohio.com as a free download.

While it can be troubling to see forgetfulness, lapsed hygiene and other signs of aging affect your older loved one, the good news is that many seniors are actually relieved their families notice and care. In many cases, the elderly loved one can remain independent at home with the support of family members and professional in-home caregivers.

Changes in your older loved one’s daily comfort and safety are not to be ignored, but explored — all with caring solutions that encourage the health and well-being of your aging senior in the current days ahead and for years to come.

Perrysburg Office of Right at Home is a locally owned and operated franchise office of Right at Home, Inc., serving the communities of Wood, Lucas and parts of Sandusky counties. For more information, contact Right at Home of Perrysburg at http://www.rahnwohio.com, 567-336-6062 or by email at jbaldwin@rahnwohio.com.