Though we all understand and appreciate an elder’s need to maintain independence, there often comes a time where one is left with no choice but to consider elderly assistance services such as, elderly care, senior home help, elder care services, adult day care or senior care assistance. Each is an important and invaluable asset to seniors living independently. There are times however that senior home care such as assisted living is necessary to ensure one’s elder continues to live a safe, productive, dignified and enjoyable life with those whom they can share experiences.
In the fall and winter of one’s life cycle, it is not unusual to begin seeing tell-tale signs that a senior is in need of assisted living. Making such a decision is never easy for either one’s elder or their adult child. However, there are many signs that such a move is necessary which include:
Weight Loss: A sudden, steady weight loss is noticeable or if one’s elder has stated that he/she is eating but the food in the refrigerator is left to go bad and packaged items are expired.
Noticeable Weight Gain: Causes of sudden and continuing weight gain can include diabetes or an injury preventing one’s elder from being active. Another cause could be dementia, where one simply does not remember eating or may indulge in unhealthy snacks continuously throughout the day and evening. Financial difficulties too are a concern as this often leaves one to forego fresh foods, opting instead for packaged meals, processed meats and cheeses, pastas and breads.
Medications: Check to confirm medications are 1) being taken at the right time and correct dosage 2) refills are ordered and received on schedule and finally 3) medications have not expired.
Personal Appearance: Ask yourself, if your elder is wearing the same clothes for every visit. If so, has the clothing been laundered? Also, for instance, was your father always well groomed (i.e. shaven) and this is no longer the case? Such could be a symptom of your senior’s inability to take care of personal needs (i.e. grooming, bathing, laundry). Presence of body odor is another sign a senior is unable or simply does not remember to maintain personal hygiene.
Home and Yard Appearance: Look around your elder’s home and yard to ensure the environment is clean and being kept up. Are needed repairs overlooked?
Home Safety: Ensure that home safety equipment, such as grab bars, are in place and in good working condition.
Mood Changes: Signs of depression, anxiety, increased fearfulness (i.e. no longer feeling safe alone) can all be a result not only of dementia but; in otherwise healthier elders, can be brought on by isolation.
Changes in Social Behavior: Loss of interest in socializing. Inability to arrange transportation to social events.
Falls: Does your elder have unexplained bruises or marks they don’t want you to see? This could be an indication he/she is unable to stand and/or walk without falling.
Financial Misuse: For example inability to pay bills on time, unable to keep up with expenses, consistent notifications of overdue bills, overdrawn balances, etc. In addition, seniors are vulnerable to all sorts of financial scams so be attentive to such mail as thank you letters from charities.
Wandering: This often occurs in latter stages of dementia and, like with a small child, can happen in the blink of an eye. Just recently a friend of mine shared a story about taking a few minutes to go into the bathroom to wash her face. Within that brief time her father walked out the front door and it not only took hours to find him but, the local police had to be called in to aid in the search. Fortunately, “though it felt like it took forever”, this scare was short-lived and did not end with her father having fallen or sustained any injuries.
“Sundowner syndrome”: Involves increasingly agitated behavior as day draws into evening. Sadly this is common amongst Alzheimer’s patients and takes a heavy toll on any caregiver. When the behavior begins to severely disrupt the caregiver’s or their family routine(s), this is often a clear sign that the caregiving burden is too arduous to be dealt with at home.
Aggression: Be it verbal, physical, emotional or even sexual is another behavior found frequently in those struggling with dementia. Having to contend with such behavior day-in and day-out can leave a caregiver and other family members feeling resentful. Every individual and each of one’s family members not only has the right but should feel safe in their own environment. Yes, as difficult as it may be to acknowledge and accept, this includes the caregiver.
Issues regarding Home Safety: When reviewing these issues it is imperative that one be completely honest with themselves regarding their elder’s safety. Is dementia a concern and if so, what behaviors are causing risks (i.e. leaving the range on, not turning off the coffee maker, leaving appliance running or turned on)? If even one of these behaviors are taking place it is time to take a serious look at the situation and consider moving one’s senior into a safer environment such as an elder care home.
Escalation of Care Needs: If the condition of the elder or the caregiver’s well-being is at risk then living on one’s own or in the caregiver’s home are not a healthy option for anyone involved.
In-home Care Costs are No Longer Sustainable: While a senior most often prefers to stay in their own home, limited health and long-term insurance can preclude that possibility. At times, the cost for at home care can far outweigh that of assisted living.
Caregiver Stress: Stress, anxiety and other caregiver symptoms can be just as big of tell-tale sign that it is time to move one’s elder into assisted living. When reviewing this, please take into consideration that an elder is much better off in assisted living with a healthy caregiver to visit and check in on them than at home with a caregiver too stressed and burned out to administer proper care.
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